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A history of Flowers' alleged spending practices

Friday, January 15, 2010
SouthtownStar

HEY, BIG SPENDER

A n investigation by the SouthtownStar as well as an audit of the Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education last year revealed numerous questionable spending practices by Supt. Charles Flowers.

Flowers charged more than $3,000 in food and meal purchases on his regional credit card, sometimes as many as four times in one week and many times at upscale Oak Brook restaurants. He also increased his credit card limit from $5,000 to $20,000 during his time in the office.

Credit card statements reveal Flowers bought plane tickets to Mississippi for family members on the credit card.

Flowers approved $15,000 salary advances for his executive assistant, Barbara Flowers - who is also his sister - and another employee, who was Flowers' girlfriend.

On at least one occasion, his nephew - employed as an office floater - was paid to eat lunch, according to the state audit.

The regional office was $413,000 in debt when Flowers took power. It is now around $1 million in the red.

Other charges that showed up on his credit card include those for limos, a hair salon, hotels and rental cars.

Two assistant superintendents each collected their $80,000-plus paychecks along with $12,000 and $9,400 in grants for "consulting services" they did during normal working hours, according to the audit. The Cook County state's attorney's office said Thursday no consulting services were ever performed.

Numerous flat-screen TVs were reported to have been delivered to the office shortly after he arrived, but no one can seem to find them.

There's also the case of the missing car and furniture. Flowers said the nearly $7,000 he took out in cash advances in Illinois and Mississippi on his credit card were for an office car and furniture, but auditors could not find the vehicle or the furniture. They also were unable to verify his claims that he repaid the money.

Many of the problems at the regional office echo Flowers' troubles as school board president in Maywood-Melrose District 89. In 2002 and 2003, Flowers came under fire for hiring friends who were paid more than their predecessors and for authorizing frivolous spending on laptops and cell phones for board members in a district that, at the time, was saddled with a $3 million deficit.



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