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Corruption trial of former Todd Stroger aide continues

Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Chicago Sun-Times
by Jon Seidel

Former Cook County officials testified about “political pressure” and a “plethora of contracts” falling just below the radar of the county board as the corruption trial of a one-time top aide to Todd Stroger continued Tuesday.

Carla Oglesby served as deputy chief of staff in 2010 during the final days of Stroger’s tenure as president of the Cook County Board. Now she’s on trial for allegedly steering more than $300,000 in fake government contracts to herself and her friends.

Many of the contracts in question fell just below $25,000 — a threshold that would require a vote of approval from the county board. But Carmen Triche-Colvin, a former county purchasing agent, said that’s not what was unusual about the contracts being fast-tracked through Stroger’s office while Oglesby was there.

What was unusual, Triche-Colvin said, was that they were also being treated as “sole source,” or special-need contracts, or deals requiring swift action — something she said typically only happened with a handful agreements.

Also unusual, she said, was that Stroger gave Oglesby signature authority for all departments under the purview of the county board president.

“That was very unusual,” Triche-Colvin said. “I had never seen that before."

Kevin Givens, the county’s former environmental director, also testified that he felt pressured into signing a letter for a vendor by Eugene Mullins, a childhood friend and former media spokesman for Stroger.

Mullins was indicted on federal charges last year tied to an alleged kickback scheme stemming from a joint investigation with state authorities that led to Oglesby’s arrest.

Givens said Oglesby and Mullins wanted to use a U.S. Department of Energy grant to pay for public relations work, and he said they told him it should be kept under $25,000.

He eventually signed a letter supporting a public relations contract for Arrei Management, a firm that prosecutors said turned out to be controlled by Oglesby, because he thought the money would be coming from Stroger’s budget.

However, Givens said he held off signing a second letter for Michael Peery, one of Mullins’ co-defendants in the federal indictment, because he didn’t see the need for two vendors to do the same job.

Givens said he was later told their work would “help support the legacy of the department,” and he said he only signed the second letter after a heated back-and-forth in a meeting with Mullins. He said he thought his job might be in danger.

“I signed it due to the political pressure,” Givens said. He said he later found out Arrei and Peery were paid that same day — $24,995 and $24,985 respectively. He said payments normally took as long as three or four weeks.

Oglesby’s fate will be decided by Cook County Judge James Linn.

Her bench trial at the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th and California will resume on July 1.



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