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Juvenile jail suit alleges kickbacks
Whistleblower cites OT scam, patronage hires

Thursday, February 01, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by ABDON M. PALLASCH Legal Affairs Reporter

A federal whistleblower's lawsuit unsealed in January charges that Cook County's Juvenile Detention Center was even more out of control than previously reported.
One supervisor who was a friend of former County Board President John Stroger got kickbacks from staffers for whom the supervisor arranged unearned overtime and from outside contractors he took to the center, the suit alleges. The supervisor had staffers set up nonprofit companies to give him kickbacks, the suit said.
The supervisor could not be reached for comment but previously told the Sun-Times he was the one who helped rein in overtime abuse before Stroger fired him.
Patronage hires blamed
The staffers accused of physically abusing youth and raiding the tax and grant dollars that flowed into the center "are patronage hires, political backers, relatives and constituents of Stroger and remain employed at the [center] for that reason and despite lacking the qualifications for their jobs," the lawsuit stated. "Incompetence or a criminal background is no obstacle to a job at the [center]."
The lawsuit was filed in September 2005, when the Sun-Times and other media were writing stories about alleged corruption and patronage at the center. But it was filed under seal so as not to interfere with a state and federal investigation of alleged abuses at the center, which is supposed to help rehabilitate 450 youths awaiting court hearings.
Several changes made
The U.S. attorney's office appeared in court last month to announce it would not be joining the lawsuit, but it appears to have its own investigation proceeding, based on subpoenas for documents it served at the center last year.
In response to the stories and a federal lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, county officials have made changes at the center, and many of the employees named in the unsealed lawsuit no longer work there.
The state was defrauded of more than a million dollars by corrupt employees, the suit states.
Contributing: Steve Warmbir


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