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Stroger's going-away gift for pal
$13K in furniture delivered to spokesman, store owner says

Friday, September 17, 2010
Chicago Sun-Times
by Lisa Donovan

Lame duck Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's administration rang up a $13,000 tab for new furniture in recent months, according to county documents obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

All of the furniture -- including four chairs that cost $736 apiece -- were delivered to the offices of Stroger's childhood friend and chief spokesman Eugene Mullins at 118 N. Clark, according to sources at the county and owner of the company that handled the order.

Mullins acknowledged his fifth-floor office, along with an adjoining office occupied by his assistant, was redecorated, complete with new furniture, but he denies the $13,061 price tag listed in a June billing statement from Simple Distributors LLC, the Northwest Side company that handled the furniture order.

"That's outrageous that [someone is saying] I'd get $13,000 worth of furniture," he said.

Mullins said he didn't know how much his new desk, hutch and three chairs cost -- items he wouldn't allow a Sun-Times photographer into his office to photograph, even though taxpayers are footing the bill.

"The administration ordered the furniture," he said, saying chairs and other items were not only ordered for his office, but other offices in the executives suites as well.

Asked why the new furniture was ordered as the Stroger administration was on its way out, Mullins repeatedly referred questions to the chief financial officer.

Jaye Morgan Williams, the CFO, didn't return a call for comment.

In April, Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed first reported wood furniture was being delivered to Stroger's executive offices.

Scott Freeman, owner of Chicago-based Simple Distributors, said his company ordered and delivered furniture to two offices on the fifth floor: Mullins' and his assistant's.

He said he conducted a post-delivery inspection of the furniture in March and recalls seeing Cubs paraphernalia in Mullins' office.

"I was in his office, I saw his stuff. I met him. That's how I knew he was a Cub fan," said Freeman, a Sox fan, who said they had friendly banter over the rivalry.

Freeman said he couldn't confirm an exact date, but said the order was taken over the phone in February -- the same month Stroger lost his bid for re-election in the Democratic primary to Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th).

Mullins denies he ever met Freeman, whose company sent a "Past Due" billing notice to Mullins' office in June. The company still hasn't seen a nickel, Freeman said.

Asked why, Mullins said only: "Not all of the furniture has been delivered."

Freeman insisted all the furniture had been delivered. He said one of his workers spoke with a Stroger staffer last week who said a check may be cut by the end of the month.

"We don't want to go to the lengths of a collection agency," Freeman said.

Cindi Canary, the executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said the furniture purchases are bad fiscal management.

"It's simply horrific timing," she said.



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