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Flowers target of criminal investigation

Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Southtown Star
by Duaa Eldeib

On the same day the Cook County board issued a no-confidence vote against a top regional school administrator dogged by allegations of financial and ethical misconduct, prosecutors said a criminal investigation is in motion.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office confirmed late Tuesday the Cook County state's attorney's office is moving forward on the findings of an official state audit released last week highlighting the financial indiscretions of Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education Supt. Charles Flowers.

After reviewing the audit that outlined Flowers spent thousands of dollars on personal expenses - including more than $3,000 solely on food and untold amounts for a car and furniture auditors could not locate - and approved cash advances for a family member on the payroll, Madigan spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said the office reached out to Anita Alvarez's office to offer assistance with a criminal investigation.

"These are very serious findings in the audit," Ziegler said. "We are pleased the state's attorney will be conducting the criminal investigation."

At this time, however, state's attorney's office spokesman Andy Conklin said, he cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation into Flowers.

"We've been actively reviewing information regarding that office," he added.

The actions come on the heels of a two-month SouthtownStar investigation into the office, which acts as an arm for the Illinois State Board of Education in processing teacher certifications.

The only recourse ISBE can take is to revoke Flowers' license, which would render him unfit for the position.

"We're reviewing the audit to determine if there's enough evidence that would warrant revoking it," state board spokesman Matt Vanover said. "He's an elected official."

Commissioners are also wary they will recoup a $190,000 taxpayer-backed loan they approved in June 2008 for the office that is nearly $1 million in the red. The deadline to repay the loan is in two weeks.

Duaa Eldeib can be reached at deldeib@southtownstar.com or (708) 633-5960.


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