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Cook County Board calls for probes of regional schools office
Audit alleges misuse of public funds in office of Supt. Charles Flowers

Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

The Cook County Board expressed "no confidence" Tuesday in the county's suburban schools administrator and called for criminal investigations in the wake of a highly critical audit that alleges misuse of public funds.

The state auditor general already has forwarded to prosecutors an audit of the office run by Regional Cook County Schools Supt. Charles Flowers. Debt in Flowers' office last year soared to nearly $1 million as he made personal charges on his office credit card and gave a $6,000 cash advance to a relative who worked for him, according to the audit.

Flowers, who was elected in 2006, could not be reached for comment. In a reply to the auditor general, he said he personally covered more than $9,000 in credit-card charges unrelated to his job.

The county resolution, approved unanimously, calls on the Illinois attorney general and the county state's attorney to launch criminal investigations. It also asks the state's attorney to seek recovery of $190,000 in county funds the board lent to the superintendent's office last year. The loan is due June 30.

"We took this man on his word, and unfortunately, we were sidetracked and buffaloed," said Commissioner John Daley (D-Chicago), chairman of the county Finance Committee.

The resolution was introduced by Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman (R-Orland Park). She said last week's audit released by Auditor General William Holland indicated "flagrant corruption" in the schools office.

The audit noted that the office deficit more than doubled to $942,000 last year. The office did not have receipts to back 70 percent of the charges on Flowers' credit card and paid more than $21,000 to two assistant regional superintendents already earning more than $80,000 a year for consulting work they did during regular working hours, the audit stated.

The office handles teacher certifications and safety inspections. Several commissioners said it should be eliminated.

hdardick@tribune.com


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