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Office of Cook County president hires law firm to investigate county finances
Mayer Brown LLP will look into county's finances as grand jury expands its own probe

Thursday, October 01, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's administration has hired a law firm to probe the county's finances after revelations that a grand jury has expanded its investigation.

The county's purchasing agent, Carmen Triche-Colvin, sent a letter Wednesday to Stroger and the 17 county commissioners, saying the firm of Mayer Brown LLP was hired five days ago based on a request from Jaye Williams, the new chief financial officer.

The firm was hired to conduct an internal investigation of "issues identified by Cook County's outside auditor's (sic)" and "an organizational audit" of the county's Finance Bureau, the letter states.

The hiring comes two weeks after the Tribune reported that a county grand jury had subpoenaed Deloitte & Touche LLP, the county's auditing firm, in what sources said is a widening investigation of county finances.

Mayer Brown was hired without board approval under an ordinance authorizing emergency purchases, the letter states.

Commissioner Tony Peraica, R-Riverside, said the emergency purchasing ordinance does not apply.

"This is, in my view, an inappropriate and wasteful expenditure of scarce taxpayer dollars," Peraica said.

The ordinance cited in the letter allows the purchasing agent to skip bids and board approval "when there exists a threat to public health or public safety, or when immediate expenditure is necessary for repairs to county property, to prevent, or minimize serious disruption in county services, or to ensure the integrity of county records."

Stroger spokesman James Ramos said he was not aware of the letter and could not immediately comment.

The letter did not reveal how much Mayer Brown is being paid.

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