In a scathing report, the Cook County Independent Inspector General says trustees in the South Stickney Sanitary District paid themselves and other employees excessive compensation classified as “mileage allowance,” improperly gave an outside lawyer and a part-time employee health insurance, and allowed nepotism and political influence to seep into district affairs.

The report further accuses officials of failing to account for cash from the sale of brass water meters, “concerns regarding vendor political contributions,” and says investigators were stonewalled when they began looking into the allegations.

As a result, investigators called for the ouster of the entire board.

“This conduct resulted in the inefficient and wasteful management of the District’s monetary resources,” investigators wrote, “and advanced certain Trustees’ personal interests—and those of favored associates.”

The report says despite the fact that the Trustees were supposed to max out at $6,000 per year, they had been paying themselves an additional $400 per month as “mileage allowance” without substantiation for the charges.

Investigators said they also found an assortment of charges on a district credit card which did not appear to have anything to do with official business. Among the charges, visits to the Wisconsin Dells, two hotels in Las Vegas, the Sybaris club in Frankfort, and assorted drug stores, groceries, and restaurants.

The report says an area recycler provided records and video evidence that a district official had on 13 different occasions shown up with water meters, copper wiring and tubing, which the recycler purchased for $1,522 in cash. Investigators said when they attempted to examine the district’s records, that same official refused to allow them into Township offices.

“This transaction represents only a small portion of the water meters that were replaced,” the investigators noted. “Based on our analysis, the potential value for all of the unaccounted-for water meters would be approximately $20,995.20.”

The report says in addition to the lack of cooperation on the water meter matter, numerous district officials demonstrated a marked lack of cooperation in the overall investigation.

“All of these individuals refused to appear for interviews,” the investigators said. “After producing records that revealed possible wrongful conduct, the District’s trustees and key employees later claimed that the OIIG lacked jurisdiction to conduct an investigation.”

The Inspector General was so outraged at the findings, the report made a formal recommendation to oust the entire Board of Trustees, “and replace them with independent individuals who have an established record of putting the interests of the public above their own.”

The report says the County balked at ousting the entire board, indicating that one of the trustees is serving an expired term and will not be replaced. The other two were appointed after the period of the IG review, and while they will not be forced out, they will be required to sign affidavits that they will cooperate in future investigations.

The County said it did support a recommendation to remove and replace the district’s current administrator, outside attorney, and office manager.

Published at 7:16 PM CDT on Jul 14, 2017

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