Official gets no-confidence vote for questionable payments, expenses
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
by Lisa Donovan
Cook County commissioners issued a no-confidence vote today against
a suburban education official who a state auditor found repeatedly used
a government credit card for personal expenses and approved
questionable payments to relatives on his payroll.
The County Board’s unanimous vote comes in the wake of a state audit,
first reported by the Sun-Times last week, that focused on Regional
Supt. Charles A. Flowers and his state-funded office, which has amassed
a nearly $1 million deficit.
“This is an example of flagrant corruption at its most heightened,”
said Commissioner Liz Doody Gorman, a Republican from Orland Park. She
introduced the no-confidence resolution and pressed — as the state’s
top auditor has — for a criminal probe.
The regional education office Flowers runs issues teaching
certificates, approves school calendars and reviews school districts’
finances in suburban Cook County.
The deficit that has run up under Flowers prompted state Auditor
General William Holland to suggest the office might not “continue as a
going concern” or be able to repay a $190,000 loan from Cook County
that Flowers engineered last year with County Board President Todd
Stroger’s help. That loan is due this month, and in the wake of the
audit, the county has sent Flowers a letter reminding him of the
“I think it’s safe to say we’re not going to see that money,” said
Commissioner Tony Peraica, a suburban Republican, adding that the
state’s attorney’s office should aid the county in getting the payment
A year ago, when the county board OK'd the loan — Gorman was the only commissioner to object.
Commissioner Larry Suffredin, a Democrat, talked about his own vote to
approve the loan last year: “We had no indication of these detailed and
systematic problems. He said “Today it’s a different story.”
The state audit also questioned a $6,000 cash advance Flowers
authorized for his administrative assistant — Barbara Flowers, his
sister. Flowers’ nephew also was on his office’s payroll and was
improperly paid for lunch breaks, the audit found.
And two high-level deputies of Flowers making more than $80,000 a year
got consulting gigs of $9,400 and $12,000 to monitor state grants —
which they did during their normal work hours.
“This is a very bad audit. I can’t emphasize that enough,” Holland said
last week. He referred his findings to Attorney General Lisa Madigan
and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez for further
Flowers was elected in 2006 to a four-year term, but during today’s
County Board meeting several commissioners asked for his resignation.
Flowers was not immediately available for comment today.
Of 40 credit card purchases Flowers made, 16 were for personal items,
the audit found. Among the purchases, Holland noted, were airline
tickets to fly Flowers' family members to Mississippi. He also withdrew
$6,669 in cash advances on the credit card while in Illinois and
Mississippi, ostensibly to purchase a vehicle and furniture for the
But Holland’s auditors found no evidence of the vehicle or furniture.
And auditors could not verify Flowers’ claim that he repaid those
advances from personal funds.