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Hospital officials named in inquiry
3 in purchasing at Provident suspended

Thursday, July 31, 2008
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

Three financial workers at one of Cook County's public hospitals have been suspended amid an inspector general's probe into office supply purchases they approved, county officials confirmed Thursday.

The county inspector general is looking at money spent with Phoenix Business Solutions of
Alsip, where a relative of Provident Hospital deputy purchasing director John Janousek is a vice president, sources said.

Janousek, purchasing director Patricia Dixon and clerk Tiffany Spicer were suspended Wednesday pending the outcome of the investigation, the sources said. The three could not be reached Thursday.

"Right now, it's an inspector general's investigation," said Eugene Mullins, spokesman for County Board President
Todd Stroger. "If they discover any criminal conduct related to the investigation, then the inspector general will turn it over the state's attorney."

A spokesman for State's Atty. Dick Devine said the office is in contact with the county inspector general.

Dixon, the top-ranking suspended employee, was the treasurer for the campaign finance fund of former Commissioner Bobbie Steele, the South Side Democrat who in 2006 served out the term of County Board President John Stroger.

Over the years, Phoenix contributed thousands of dollars to the campaign funds of Steele, John Stroger and the 8th Ward Democratic organization the elder Stroger controlled. Steele could not be reached Thursday. Her son, Commissioner Robert Steele, who was chairman of his mother's campaign fund, declined to address the issue.

The inspector general's investigation centers on whether the three suspended employees, all of whom have worked for the county since at least 1990, had a hand in approving purchases of equipment from Phoenix while knowing of the family relationship, sources said.

From December 2003 to July, Phoenix billed the county $3.6 million, according to county records. Of that, more than $1.8 million was billed to the county's massive public health system.

"We've seen this movie before," said Commissioner Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago), a longtime critic of how the county's health-care system has been run. "Just a few years ago, the chief financial officer of the hospital was indicted under very similar circumstances."

In January 2006, former Provident chief financial officer Earl Bell was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison for helping a friend use the hospital to defraud financial institutions.

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