Regional Supt. Flowers' home, office searched
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
by Duaa Eldeib
Investigators from the Cook County state's attorney's office wrapped
up a raid early this afternoon at the Suburban Cook County Regional
Office of Education in Westchester . They arrived with a search
warrant early this morning in connection with an ongoing investigation
into Supt. Charles Flowers.
Investigators seized about half a
dozen boxes of papers and a computer from the office. Neighbors report
officers also were at Flowers' home in nearby Maywood early this
morning and left with boxes.
is no sign of Flowers at his home or office. Also, his two sisters and
nephews, whom he added to the regional office payroll when he took
office in 2007, didn't show up for work either.
Other employees were allowed to go inside the office and are now being questioned by investigators.
The SouthtownStar in May was the first to report about Flowers'
alleged misuse of public money. A state audit released in June
confirmed the SouthtownStar findings.
There are unconfirmed reports that two of Flowers'
second-in-commands left the office just one day before the raid. Deputy
Supt. Harry Reynolds and Assistant Supt. Cynthia Broughton are said to
have retired Tuesday, in a move that puts distance between them and
Flowers has not returned multiple calls for comment.
Numerous purchases made on Flowers' regional office credit card were
of a personal nature, the audit shows. Credit card statements obtained
through Freedom of Information Act requests detail thousands of dollars
spent on food and restaurants, a trip to a hair salon and limousine
charges. Documents also reveal that Flowers began his tenure with a
credit card limit of $5,000, and it is now at $20,000.
Flowers also used his district credit card to pay for airline
tickets for family members to Mississippi and rental cars, as well as
taking out almost $7,000 in cash advances both in Illinois and
Mississippi, the audit shows. Although he claimed that the money was
used to buy a car and furniture for the office, auditors could not find
This is all coming from an office where Flowers hired family and
friends, including a nephew whom the audit shows was paid to eat lunch.
Flowers approved $15,000 in cash advances for his executive assistant -
who is also his sister - and another employee. In addition, two
assistant superintendents each collected their $80,000-plus paychecks
along with $12,000 and $9,400 in grant money for "consulting services"
they did during normal working hours, according to the audit.
He also failed to make the June 30 deadline this week to repay a
$190,000 loan for operations from the Cook County board of
commissioners. He cited at the time he needed the loan because the
office was facing a $413,000 deficit and was underfunded.
Flowers, the former special education teacher and administrator, was
elected in 2006 to the office that is now nearly $1 million in debt.
For the past few months, Flower's office was late on payroll and
earlier this year the department didn't pay its group health insurance
premiums on time, leading the company to temporarily cancel workers'
health benefits. The majority of the two dozen or so workers have
either been laid off or had their hours cut.
The office also owes nearly $20,000 in back rent to Westchester
Public School District 92 1 / 2 for the regional office's space,
Flowers said he repaid the office for personal expenses, but the auditors could not verify that.
Duaa Eldeib can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (708) 633-5960.