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The ABCs of ex-Stroger aide Carla Oglesby's case
Who's who among the unnamed parties

Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Chicago Sun-Times
by Lisa Donovan

The case against Carla Oglesby -- the now-former deputy chief of staff to Cook County Board President Todd Stroger -- is spelled out in a 10-page criminal complaint that refers anonymously to a cast of characters prosecutors say were involved, many of them unwittingly.
Though no one else is identified by name, sources familiar with the case told the Chicago Sun-Times that the 13 people referred to only as "Public Official" or "Individual" and a letter fall into two groups:

• Cook County government officials.

• People who worked for Oglesby at her public relations firm, CGC Communications.

Oglesby's attorney said she will fight the charges against her.

No one else has been charged in the case, in which Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's office accuses Oglesby of illegally steering $300,000 in county contracts to private companies controlled by herself and others during her seven months on the county payroll.

Two of the no-bid contracts -- all of which were for amounts just under the $25,000 threshold that would have required a vote by the full Cook County Board -- went to firms she controlled, including her public relations firm CGC Communications as well as Arrei Management LLC. Roughly a dozen others went to companies owned by friends or business associates of Oglesby, who's charged with theft, money laundering and official misconduct.

And, although Alvarez held open the possibility that others might later be charged, the sources said many of those referred to in the criminal complaint might have had only an unwitting role.

Alvarez would not say whether Stroger -- who lost in last winter's Democratic Party primary to Ald. Toni Preckwinkle and is set to leave office after next month's general election -- is a target of the continuing investigation.

One curiosity in the alphabet soup of the case: The list of those referred to as "Public Official" starts with "Public Official B." There is no mention of a "Public Official A." Law enforcement sources said that was by design but otherwise would not discuss even the existence of a "Public Official A."

Here's a who's who among most of the names in the Oglesby case, according to sources, along with excerpts of what prosecutors said in the complaint:

• Public Official B: David Ramos, who is executive director of the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. "[S]igned a justification letter seeking a no-bid sole-source contract between the [c]ounty and CGC Communications. . . . In an interview with investigators, 'Public Official B' stated that the contract with CGC Communications was intended to be paid from the Disaster Relief Grant that his [d]epartment oversees. According to 'Public Official B,' in the middle of January 2010, he sought out 'Public Official C' (the President's Media Representative) because he needed public relations help to 'get the word out' about the grant. . . . 'Public Official C' told 'Public Official B' it would be 'no problem' and that 'I will take care of it.' According to 'Public Official B,' the next contact he had with 'Public Official C' asked him to sign justification letters authorizing the award of sole-source contracts to CGC Communications."

• Public Official C: Eugene Mullins, who has been a friend of Stroger's since childhood and now heads Stroger's county public relations office. In addition to urging that CGC get a $24,975 contract to get the word out about the availability of flood-relief funds after storms in 2008, Mullins allegedly pressured Kevin Givens, the county's environmental control director, to sign off on a $24,995 contract for Arrei Management, another firm controlled by Oglesby, Givens told authorities. According to court papers: "At a meeting with Oglesby, [Mullins] and others, held on March 26, 2010, [Givens] expressed his concern that he did not have any of the requisite documentation regarding Arrei. . . . [D]espite his concerns, he signed the justification letters because 'Public Official C' pressured him to do so."

• Public Official D: Chris Geovanis, a Stroger spokeswoman who reports to Mullins. In June, investigators from the Cook County inspector general's office interviewed Geovanis. " 'Public Official D' was shown an invoice from CGC to the county, as well as some of the alleged work product submitted by CGC to the investigators. After reviewing these documents 'Public Official D' remarked that the materials were not true. 'Public Official D' noted that some of the documents included . . . were, in fact, not prepared by CGC but were instead prepared by 'Public Official D' herself, including a speech and a press release. According to 'Public Official D's' observations, CGC did not perform any work relating to the disaster relief grant. . . . 'Public Official D' reported that she 'absolutely did not see any CGC involvement' and she was 'outraged' that CGC was taking credit for the aforementioned press releases and promotional e-mails that 'Public Official D' prepared herself as part of her work for the county."

• Public Official E: Dennis McNamara. Public Official F: Sean Howard. McNamara and Howard are county officials who prosecutors say did work preparing and distributing fliers regarding county-run flood-relief workshops in Calumet Park and Harwood Heights -- work that CGC Communications also took credit for.

• Public Official G: Kevin Givens. He signed a "justification letter" for Arrei Management -- a firm controlled by Oglesby -- to be awarded a $24,995 contract for a public relations campaign "to build awareness of the composting and electronic collection programs." Investigators said Givens told them he was not only pressured into signing the Arrei letter but also that, "On April 16th, 2010 . . . two employees from [the] Comptroller's Office appeared in his office requesting that he sign the requisitions for [Arrei]" and a second, unnamed company. "He refused to sign the documents until after he had reviewed the background materials on each company. Unbeknownst to 'Public Official G,' both companies had already submitted invoices and had already been paid on March 26, 2010. 'Public Official G' further reported that it typically takes several weeks from the time the paperwork is submitted to the Comptroller before the Comptroller issues a check to a vendor."

• Public Official H: Jaye Morgan Williams, who is Stroger's chief financial officer. "Oglesby and 'Public Official H' signed a purchase order and . . . voucher form requesting the comptroller issue a check to Arrei Management."

• Individual A: Tesa Anewishki, who is executive vice president of CGC and who worked as an independent contractor to prepare Arrei Management's winning proposal for a county contract.

• Individual B: Jennifer Johnson, a CGC staffer who authorities said signed the federal tax form that Arrei submitted to the county.

• Individual C: White Oglesby, Carla Oglesby's father. Though Carla Oglesby had told reporters that she was taking a leave of absence from CGC once she went on the county payroll in February and wouldn't profit from the firm, she remained the sole signatory on two of the firm's accounts, according to authorities -- including one on which she wrote three checks to her father: a March 1 check for $3,020; another on April 6 for $1,060 and the third on May 27 for $530. Father and daughter also have a joint bank account under the name Arrei Event Planners into which the check, after Arrei Management won the county contract, was deposited. Investigators say $14,800 of the money was transferred to a CGC bank account.

• Individual D: Eleanor Arlook, a junior account executive at CGC Communications. She's mentioned along with CGC staffers Johnson and Anewishki because their paychecks come from a CGC payroll account that Oglesby has sole signature authority over. That, along with the fact that there were several cash withdrawals on the account, raised questions in investigators' minds about Oglesby's claims to have given up the reins to CGC once she went to work for the county.

• Individual E: Tyrone Blackshear, listed in filings with the Illinois secretary of state's office as the registered agent for Arrei Event Planners until the business was voluntarily dissolved in 2007. Its account had been empty and inactive for months until the company was awarded a no-bid county contract.

• Individual F: Mark Carter, a West Side activist who co-authored a campaign poster meant to drum up support for Stroger by accusing white "machine" Democrats of trying to kill Stroger's chances for re-election. Carter told authorities he took over Arrei Management from Oglesby in 2008 but that the proper paperwork to reflect that change hadn't been filed with the state. When questioned by investigators, " 'Individual F' said he did not know whether Arrei was a corporation, LLC or partnership and was unsure if ARREI had any bank accounts." Authorities say it wasn't until June that Carter's name was added to the Arrei bank account.

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