Preckwinkle ‘appalled’ at alleged drinking, sex, theft at Cook County pool
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
by Lisa Donovan
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was
“appalled” about the allegations of county forest preserve staffers
stealing, having sex and boozing while on the clock at a west suburban
“Well I’m angry, too,” Preckwinkle said Tuesday in
her first public comments since the Cook County Inspector General
released a report Friday with detailing the questionable acts last
summer at the county forest preserve-run Cermak Aquatic Center in Lyons.
“My first response about this was to be appalled. People have the right
to expect good performance and honesty and appropriate behavior by
adults in their treatment of minors. … That wasn’t true in this
instance, and it’s deplorable.”
Cameras in a pool office captured staff stealing
entrance fees, having sex with one another and, in some cases, adult
staff providing alcohol to underage staff.
In his Friday report, Inspector General Patrick
Blanchard wrote that he recommended a range of discipline — from
suspensions to firing — of 17 seasonal and full-time staffers and that
the probe ballooned into an investigation of over-time abuse, to the
tune of $167,000, at all three forest preserve pools.
Preckwinkle said seasonal employees involved are on
a do-not-hire list, while others have been fired or suspended and still
others have quit over the investigation. More details will be released
next week, she said.
In the meantime, the results of the probe —
including theft allegations — have been referred to the Cook County
State’s Attorney. Already, the forest preserve police ticketed six
employees for drinking on forest preserve property, and one of those
staffers was charged with a misdemeanor count of providing alcohol to
minors, Forest Preserve Police Chief Richard Waszak told the Sun-Times
Preckwinkle was not in office at the time of the
alleged fraud but said since she was sworn in Dec. 6th, she’s received
reports almost weekly from the inspector general about incompetent or
even loafing government employees.
“I have had the dubious pleasure since I came in to
office of getting an inspector general’s report about activity that
pre-dates my swearing-in every week or so for the county side or the
forest preserve side,” Preckwinkle said after a press conference with
Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel to announce a new study on streamlining city
and county services.
“I anticipate that there will continue to be
reports of bad activities that occurred before we got there,”
Preckwinkle said. “We’re trying to put new people in place and new
procedures in place so that the bad activity is minimized going forward
from December. When you have a workforce of 24,000 people, frankly,
there are always going to be some people who screw up but you try to put
procedures in place and good management in place so that that number is
modest rather than large.”
She said that the forest preserve investigation revealed some of the more serious problems she’s seen to date.
“There was sexual activity on county time,” she
said, listing one of several problems found in the report. “I think
there were real issues in management at the forest preserve which is why
when we walked in the door, we changed the leadership there.”
Weeks after she took office, she hired Arnold Randall as the new superintendent and Mary Laraia as his deputy.