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Did Stroger have knowledge of Oglesby's scheme?
Aide to Cook County Board President needed his approval to get county money

Wednesday, October 13, 2010
by Mark Suppelsa

Last week, the county seat was rocked with the after hours arrest of the Cook County board president's right-hand woman, Carla Oglesby.

24 hours later, board president Todd Stroger, put on his game face and had little to say as the cameras rushed to get his reaction.

"Justice will be served and we will help the State's Attorney in anything they need," he said. "I'm not going to comment on the case because I don't know about it."

Or did he?

Emails obtained by WGNTV reveal the back room wheeling and dealing that may have led up to Oglesby's arrest. These email's show what prosecutors allege: Oglesby wanted to get her hands on county money. But first, she needed the president's okay.

WGNTV showed the emails to Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin.

"Clearly, he's the one who's going to give the authorization to the comptroller to start the process of payment," he said.

Until recently, anything under $25,000 dollars didn't need approval from the commissioners, just the president.

That's why days after Oglesby was hired last February, she asked, "After I have the president sign my 29-A," (the green light for $24, 975 in taxpayer dollars for her company) she wanted to know, "how long it will take to get it processed?"

Turns out, not long at all. That very day a check was delivered to her office.

And in another email she grouses, "Every day it's a different fire." But boasts she has the president's okay to hand out a slew of these so-called 24-9 contracts.

"In each case she references directly the president has approved what she's doing," said Suffredin. "And in this particular case, I don't think she could have gone forward without the president's approval because again it was his contracting authority that she was using."

All of this is flying under the radar as Oglesby drags more county employees into her alleged scheme.

In one email, she says the president's chief spokesman Eugene Mullins is working to schedule a meeting offsite with one of her company's employees.

According to prosecutors, that employee presented the pitch for a company set up by Oglesby in which her financial interest was not disclosed. The company got the deal and Oglesby allegedly got the money. As a county employee it's illegal to do business with your own company.

As questions started being raised about the 24-9 contracts, the Stroger administration went into damage control. One email details talking points for reporters and says Oglesby's personal company is qualified and capable.

In one draft it called Oglesby a former manager. An hour later the formal statement admitted Oglesby owned the company. In May, Stroger suspended her for five days saying she made a mistake.

"He suspended her for a couple of days and treated it as if this was a minor infraction, as if this was a jay walking ticket," said Suffredin. "In fact, as the State's Attorney has connected all the dots, it's over $300,000 dollars of state and federal grants that have been wasted."

Copyright © 2010, WGN-TV

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