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County to probe officials’ travel
Worker complains about frivolous trips in department

Friday, July 01, 2005
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

 

 

 

As Cook County government faces an onslaught of criticism for sending more than 20 employees to Hawaii in the coming weeks, President John H. Stroger has turned over to the inspector general’s office reams of documents regarding one of his department head’s travel practices. 

According to Laura Lechowicz Felicione, Stroger’s special assistant for legal affairs, travel and expense reimbursement forms for Gwendolyn Clemons, head of the county’s department of planning and development, and two on her staff were turned over to the inspector general’s office. 

Stroger turned over the documents after an anonymous written complaint from someone purporting to work in Clemons’ department was sent to him and all board commissioners. The letter, alleging a pattern of frivolous or unneeded travel by Clemons, was dated and arrived June 9, the same day Clemons apparently was in San Francisco wrapping up a real estate finance conference. 

Turning over the documents is not necessarily an indication that the president’s office believes there is merit to the accusations. 

“The anonymous allegations … were something we felt we needed to look at. We’re erring on the side of caution,” said Cook County spokeswoman Caryn Stancik. 

County officials have insisted Clemons’ trip to San Francisco was relevant to her job, but for three weeks, they have refused to disclose the name of the conference or provide details about its cost. They have promised to do so today. 

The Urban Land Institute held a real estate finance seminar in San Francisco June 6-10, and its Web site lists Clemons as one of the attendees. 

Clemons did not return phone calls seeking comment. Stancik said Stroger was “out of touch” Thursday and could not speak with a reporter.



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