The Cook County Highway
Department, which until April 9 put an employee with a lengthy arrest
record in charge of people's personnel files, is refusing to adopt the
recommended practices of the county auditor, the auditor says.
Auditor Laura Berman has submitted a report to county
commissioners detailing that the department is refusing to process cash
payments in a manner she has recommended.
Highway department officials say adopting Berman's
recommendations would inconvenience contractors and make them walk
across the street to pay for bid documents and maps instead of
collecting the money in its office.
"The small number of checks that are received and the
low value of the check amounts are handled efficiently in the Highway
Department," wrote the Superintendent of Highways Rupert Graham in
response to the county auditor.
Berman noted the loose manner in which the money is
collected will only make more work for her office as it tries to
monitor the transactions.
The highway department was the same department that
employed Tony Cole, a hire of Cook County Board Todd Stroger, and gave
him access to employees' personnel files as a human resources
administrator. Cole had a lengthy arrest record, including a conviction
for writing bad checks.
He was fired after Stroger's office claimed it didn't
know the full extent of his arrest record. However, administrators
later admitted they had possessed for months an FBI report detailing
his true record. The county CFO, Donna Dunnings, later resigned after
it became public she had paid to bail Cole out of jail on domestic
charges. It was after those charges that Cole was promoted to the
highway department job.
At the same time the county is refusing to adopt the
recommended practices with its money collection in the highway
department, it is seeking legislation from the state that would
continue its level of funding for the highway department.
Stroger is sponsoring a resolution for board
consideration that urges the Illinois legislature to adjust legislation
that keeps a certain level of gas tax funding going exclusively to Cook
County because it is the only county in the state with a population
above 1 million. However, other counties are close to reaching that
mark and the county would soon have to share those funds with them if
the legislation is not adjusted to read "3 million."
Cook County spokesman Gene Mullins, who accompanied
Dunnings on a trip to jail to bail out Cole on one occasion, was asked
for a copy of Burman's report Thursday and promised to get back to a
reporter but did not. He also did not return a phone call seeking
comment on the report once it was obtained through other channels.