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  Last year more people used the County's forest preserves than visited Yellowstone National Park.

3 forest preserve cops fired in OT scam

Thursday, July 21, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

An overtime embezzlement scam has led to the firings of three Cook County Forest Preserve District police officers and could lead to the firings of three more.

Officers James Sherman, Donn Schultz and Vincent Price -- an 8th Ward supporter of County Board President John Stroger -- were fired after hearings last week.

Officers Lehman Cooper, William Eiden and Chester Gray each had hearings, but a recommendation is yet to come from a review board to district Police Chief Richard Waszak or Supt. Steve Bylina.

District spokesman Steve Mayberry said each officer is accused of failing to follow county rules "for receiving money one did not earn."

The officers are under fire for their roles in a scam that saw thousands of unearned overtime dollars doled out from 2000 through 2002.

Stroger sending 'a message'

Payroll clerk Rochelle Porter admitted she improperly gave officers overtime, as she was frustrated that her political connections to Stroger hadn't earned her promotions that she said she was promised.

Four officers, no longer on the force, gave Porter kickbacks on that unpaid overtime.

Porter, originally charged with 43 felonies, was convicted of a misdemeanor and also fired from her county job.

Stroger wants to "send a message that the district will not tolerate" those who "swindle the taxpayers or who do a disservice to our 40 million annual visitors," Mayberry said.

Earlier this month, Sherman came under investigation when he crashed his county car in South Chicago Heights -- 25 miles south of the Dan Ryan Woods he was supposed to be patrolling.

None of the unearned overtime has been repaid by any of the officers, officials said.

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