Friday, May 15, 2009

Flowers Uses Taxpayer Funds For Trips and Credit Card Advances!!!

The Daily Southtown did a recent follow up on Charles Flowers. Read below:

The Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education - the same office with a reputation of not answering the phone - spent nearly $20,000 on two phone systems in as many years, according to documents.

A preliminary audit of the office obtained by the SouthtownStar reveals a laundry list of questionable financial charges, ranging from airline tickets to Mississippi for Supt. Charles Flowers' family to nearly $2,000 in late fees and finance charges on regional office credit cards to Flowers' nephew - who is employed as an office floater - getting paid to eat lunch.

"Taking his whole family on taxpayer dollars is extremely questionable," said Pat Rehkamp, chief investigator with the Better Government Association.

Two administrators, whom the audit didn't name, collected their $87,644 and $80,628 salaries along with $12,000 and $9,400 for "consulting services" they did during normal working hours, the report shows.

When Flowers took office in July 2007, the office was more than $413,000 in debt. Under Flowers that more than doubled to $941,000 as of June 30, 2008, and he hired family and friends to work for him.

Three months after taking office, Flowers already was taking out cash advances on regional office's credit card, according to the audit.

The office spent $9,300 on a phone system last year - which went to replace an $8,900 phone system purchased only one year earlier, according to the audit.

Auditors initially arrived at the office in October 2008, only to return in December 2008 because the office was not ready the first time around.

Even with the two-month warning, there still were missing credit card statements, receipts and bank statements.

In a few cases, there was paperwork to support purchases but no documentation to prove it related to regional activities.

When mileage reimbursement was incorrectly totaled, it was paid without the correction, the audit stated. Another employee was overpaid when his hours were miscalculated.

The office is on its third business manager since 2007. Three weeks ago, Willie Mack, the director of ethics and fiscal compliance, was laid off, along with Joe Fogarty, a longtime office employee who worked on teacher certification, and Larry Polubinski, who dealt with special education.

Within the past month, the office was nearly two weeks late with paychecks. Earlier this year, employees had their health insurance temporarily canceled because group health insurance payments weren't paid on time.

The most recent round of paychecks were due May 1, but as off Thursday, employees had not been paid.

"On the surface of it, it looks like a classic misuse of taxpayer dollars," Rehkamp said.

Flowers did not return calls for comment.

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