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Consolidation plan costs county $31,000

Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

It was designed to save the county money.
Instead, it cost the county $31,000 in an “emergency furniture” purchase.
Cook County Comptroller Joseph Fratto informed board members Tuesday that, after they directed the Bureau of Health’s Comptroller to merge with the County Controller, someone ordered $31,000 worth of furniture as part of the consolidation.
Fratto, who came on board after the consolidation was ordered, discovered the purchase and brought it to the board’s attention because $14,000 in payments is still pending.
The purchase should have come before the board earlier because it exceeded the statutory $25,000 threshold for board approval.
In addition, the purchase was made through Chicago United Industries, a controversial contractor the city of Chicago has stopped using as a minority contractor because it does not, in and of itself, provide any products or services, but simply acts as a broker, buying other companies’ products or services and then passing them along to government agencies after a mark-up.
Still, despite the highly unusual nature of the transaction, Cook County Commissioners approved the purchase without asking a single question of Fratto.
Chicago Democrats Mike Quigley, Earlean Collins, Forrest Claypool and Evanston Democrat Larry Suffredin voted against the purchase. Republican Commissioner Peter Silvestri of Elmwood Park and Chicago Democrat Joseph Moreno voted present. Republican Liz Gorman of Orland Park was absent.
Asked why the $31,000 of new furniture needed to be purchased, Director of Public Affairs and Communications Andre Garner responded, “I don’t know about that.”
Another county spokeswoman promised to investigate, but did not return a request for information.
Quigley suspected county officials’ logic in buying the furniture was that, with the consolidation, more furniture would be needed in the one office they chose to use.
Even so, he said, a county warehouse is stacked with unused furniture or the furniture could have been moved from one comptroller’s office to another.
“We have so much furniture that no one wants to use,” he said.

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