Friday, June 26, 2009

Flowers Has Not Paid His Rent!!!

The Daily Southtown has uncovered the fact that Flowers has not paid his office space rent. The regional schools boss currently under criminal investigation for misusing school money owes nearly $20,000 in back rent for educational office space, documents show.

Only once this year has Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education - headed by Supt. Charles Flowers - paid rent to Westchester Public School District 92 1 / 2 , according to documents received from the district through a Freedom of Information Act request.

From July 2008 to June 2009, Flowers' office should have paid $41,150 for the space at 10110 Gladstone Street in Westchester, which is leased from the school district. It has only made good on $24,004. The regional office shares the building with MacNeal School, a private school affiliated with MacNeal Hospital that services special education students, which also rents from the district.

The more than $17,000 lapse in payment has former Regional Supt. Bob Ingraffia wondering if District 92 1 / 2 's school board will initiate eviction proceedings.

"Taxpayers don't like to see the district losing money," said Ingraffia, who lost his re-election bid to Flowers in 2006.

Board president Barbara Stanger declined to comment on whether the board was taking action to recoup the cash.

"I really don't want to comment on anything at this time that, I believe, is being investigated," Stanger said.

District 92 1 / 2 Supt. Jean Sophie was not in the office Thursday, but has previously refused to comment on anything relating to Flowers' office.

Flowers did not return multiple messages left for him.

During Ingraffia's tenure, the office typically paid rent in advance, which was usually one lump sump annually, he said.

"That was so we made sure we would have a roof over our head," Ingraffia said.

Flowers' rent schedule was more sporadic. Often, he would pay on a monthly basis. There were times, however, he would miss a payment ---like September and October 2007 - and would supplement with two payments the next month, documents reveal. Monthly rent for 2008 was $3,300 and $3,429 in 2009.

The SouthtownStar first reported last week that Flowers was the target of a Cook County state's attorney investigation. A two-month SouthtownStar investigation revealed Flowers padded the office payroll with friends and family, charged thousands of dollars in personal expenses and cash advances to his work credit card and more than doubled the office's debt to nearly $1 million dollars. A troubling state audit officially released earlier this month confirmed those findings.

Last year, the Cook County Board approved a $190,000 for Flowers' office. Commissioners have questioned his ability to repay the loan, which is due Tuesday.

Duaa Eldeib can be reached at or (708) 633-5960.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Daily Southtown Says: "Time to Send Flowers Packing"

The Daily Southtown published an editorial today saying it's "Time to Send Flowers Packing." Here's the editorial:

R eform of state government is an issue to which we are dedicated; some might even say we're obsessed. The list of things to be fixed in Illinois governance is long, depressing, and growing. Add this: We need ways to remove tainted public officials from office.

It's a miracle we're not still stuck with Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Thankfully the state Senate was able to drive him from office after corruption charges. But, there are more poisoned flowers among Illinois' vast fields of elected offices - or, in the latest case, Charles Flowers.

Flowers holds the elected position of Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education Superintendent. He has a record of financial abuse and misconduct dating to his days as board president at west suburban Maywood-Melrose Park District 89.

On Tuesday, the Cook County Board voted non-confidence in Flowers, in the face of months of reporting by this newspaper, and a state audit documenting his arrogant and profligate use of public funds. A criminal investigation is under way.

This should be enough to at least suspend an official, if not boot him entirely. But Illinois and Cook County have almost no way to remove suspect office holders; we'd not be surprised to see some insisting on being paid while behind bars.

Inevitably when the notion is raised of ousting people such as Flowers, responses include "innocent until proven guilty." Let's put that nonsense aside.

Innocence until guilt is proven is a vitally important premise in America. But it has nothing to do with employment, elected or otherwise. It solely means that before we take away a person's freedom, their guilt must be proved in court, to the very high standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt."

In the court of public opinion, or the determination of suitability for employment, this standard does not hold. Nor should it.

Anyone in a non-elected job facing the findings in the Flowers audit would have been fired by now. One questionable expense account is all it takes for most employees to lose their job. Elected officials who love to compare themselves to employees when seeking raises or benefits or perks barely acknowledge this when fighting to stay long after their competence or honesty are shown wanting.

Flowers should go. And there should be means to make his going less torturous and time-consuming.

Situations such as this show why Illinois should re-think the number of offices to which we elect people. As a starting point, electing people to do public service is unassailable, and this element of democracy has largely been brought to the world by America. It goes to the roots of the revolution that gave birth to our great country. And perhaps a return to those roots is in order.

"No taxation without representation" made sense 250 years ago, and does still. No processing of teaching certificates without representation? Maybe not. But that's the primary role of the office Flowers abuses.

That so many such arcane and narrow roles are elected offices is one reason voter turnout for them is minimal. Who among us can truly determine who is suited to such work? (We can determine it after audits and investigations and solid journalism have exposed the lack of it, but beforehand, no.)

Exploitive and abusive people such as Flowers move from one office to another. After his record at the park district (another that shouldn't require election) he was able to become education superintendent.

And while we decry low turnouts for offices such as county board, it's understandable why few vote for lesser offices. But that allows the likes of Flowers to hold such offices through influence within a political machine or among a few who want to enjoy the fruits of his abuse (as Flowers has rained public money on friends and relatives, for example.)

Illinois needs to set legislated standards below which elected office holders can be ousted by higher levels of government, or are automatically required to resign or at least be suspended. Or, despite its own limitations and potential for abuse due to the same low turnouts that bring us cads like Flowers, voters need to be able to recall office holders, using petition to force votes that could expel them from office.

Illinois became a national embarrassment in the months it took to force Blagojevich out. But that happened at the speed of light compared with what it usually takes to purge our governance of such people.

Maybe we need to have David Letterman mock Flowers until he just quits.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Proviso Township Newspapers Ignore Major Scandal at Regional Superintendent's Office!!!

Local newspaper outlets, the Forest Park Review and Proviso Herald, have completely ignored a major scandal that has been developing for months at the Regional Superintendent's office headed by Charles A. Flowers. The only local source for news on this major story has been the West Suburban Journal. Flowers, who has abused the public's trust and misspent thousands of taxpayer monies, has been the subject of weekly and daily news coverage in major media outlets such as the Daily Southtown, Daily Herald, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and television stations Channels 5, 7, 9, 32 and CLTV. However, the Forest Park Review and Proviso Herald have completely ignored this story. Insider sources say the owners and editors of those two people are nothing more than political hacks aligned with Flowers, and they have as much egg on their faces as Flowers and his backers do. Why do you think these two local rags have failed to cover this major news scandal at the Regional Superintendent's office?

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Chicago Tribune Is Buffaloed By Charles Flowers!!!

The Chicago Tribune said in a recent editorial that they are buffaloed by Regional Superintendent Charles Flowers. Read it for yourself:

If there's anything worse than a do-nothing local government bureaucracy, it's a do-nothing local government bureaucracy that runs up a $1 million deficit. The Cook County Regional Education Office is all of that and more.

A state audit released last week found so many accounting "irregularities" in the office that Auditor General William Holland passed the report to Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan and Cook County State's Atty. Anita Alvarez for their scrutiny.And now the Cook County Board is pleading for Madigan and Alvarez to intervene. Turns out the County Board loaned the office $190,000 last year.

The jaw-dropping findings include:

* Regional Supt. Charles Flowers, a Democrat on whose watch the deficit ballooned, charged thousands of dollars worth of personal expenses -- including plane tickets to Mississippi for family members -- to his government credit card. He also withdrew more than $6,000 in cash advances for which he couldn't properly account.

* Flowers didn't have receipts to support 70 percent of the purchases made on his card.

* At least 46 times, Flowers charged personal and staff meals on his card without properly documenting the expenses. The meals totaled $3,198, including $736 for a staff luncheon.

* The office paid $1,798 in late fees, finance charges and other service charges, mostly on Flowers' credit card.

* Flowers approved $15,000 worth of cash advances to two employees, including $6,000 to his administrative assistant, who happens to be his sister.

* State grant money was used to pay consulting fees of $12,000 and $9,400 to two assistant superintendents who did the "extra" work during their regular hours.

* Flowers' nephew worked eight hours a day and was paid for nine.

* The office didn't record payroll transactions or reconcile its books regularly, spent state money on ineligible items and had inadequate controls on accounting procedures, property and equipment.

* Despite warnings in previous audits that it had to cut expenses or find new funding sources to stay afloat, the office bought 20 computers ($21,000) and a new phone system ($9,300) to replace the one it bought three years earlier. Payroll expenses grew by $146,000.

That $190,000 loan from Cook County-- The loan is due June 30. The office has no way to pay. "We took this man on his word, and unfortunately, we were sidetracked and buffaloed," Commissioner John Daley said Tuesday.

Oh, priceless.

* * *

Here's the most infuriating thing: This office should be dead, gone, kaput. Out of business. And for one brief moment, it was.

In 1991, when the office was blowing money under another regime, then-Cook County Board President Richard Phelan pushed the legislature to kill it. The office exists to process teacher certifications, train school-bus drivers and do other things that could easily be handled by others.

The legislature did vote to kill it. We know. Amazing. That never happens.

We almost killed a useless Democratic patronage haven, until Republicans sniffed out an opportunity to create a useless Republican patronage haven.

They revived it in the legislature and made it a suburban-only office, thinking they could elect one of their own to run it if Chicago voters were cut out of the mix.

The office actually did die for 13 months. Nobody missed it. But it rose from the ashes in 1995 and went on its merry way.

The hapless Cook County Republicans, they couldn't even hold an office that exists only in the suburbs. Democrat Flowers unseated Republican Robert Ingraffia in the 2006 election.

Flowers didn't return our calls asking for an explanation of the state audit's findings. He told the auditor the big problem is that Cook County doesn't give him funding.

The state pays more than $400,000 in salaries and benefits for Flowers and his deputies. And now it's worse than useless. It's embroiled in a spending scandal.

Yes, taxpayers, you were buffaloed. Again.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Criminal Investigation Officially Launched Against Charles Flowers!!!

According to the Daily Southtown, on the same day the Cook County board issued a no-confidence vote against a top regional school administrator dogged by allegations of financial and ethical misconduct, prosecutors said a criminal investigation is in motion.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office confirmed late Tuesday the Cook County state's attorney's office is moving forward on the findings of an official state audit released last week highlighting the financial indiscretions of Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education Supt. Charles Flowers.

After reviewing the audit that outlined Flowers spent thousands of dollars on personal expenses - including more than $3,000 solely on food and untold amounts for a car and furniture auditors could not locate - and approved cash advances for a family member on the payroll, Madigan spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said the office reached out to Anita Alvarez's office to offer assistance with a criminal investigation.

"These are very serious findings in the audit," Ziegler said. "We are pleased the state's attorney will be conducting the criminal investigation."

At this time, however, state's attorney's office spokesman Andy Conklin said, he cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation into Flowers.

"We've been actively reviewing information regarding that office," he added.

The actions come on the heels of a two-month SouthtownStar investigation into the office, which acts as an arm for the Illinois State Board of Education in processing teacher certifications.

The only recourse ISBE can take is to revoke Flowers' license, which would render him unfit for the position.

"We're reviewing the audit to determine if there's enough evidence that would warrant revoking it," state board spokesman Matt Vanover said. "He's an elected official."

Commissioners are also wary they will recoup a $190,000 taxpayer-backed loan they approved in June 2008 for the office that is nearly $1 million in the red. The deadline to repay the loan is in two weeks.

The Southtown story was writte by Duaa Eldeib. She can be reached at or (708) 633-5960.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

County Board Wants Probe Of Charles Flowers Too!!!

According to published reports, the Cook County Board today expressed “no confidence” in the county's suburban school administrator and called for criminal investigations following a highly critical audit that alleged misuse of public funds.

The state auditor general has already forwarded to prosectors the audit of the relatively small office run by Regional Cook County Schools Superintendent Charles Flowers. The state audit found the debt in Flowers' office had soared to nearly $1 million as he made personal charges on his office credit card and a $6,000 cash advance to a relative who worked for him.

Flowers, who was elected in 2006, could not immediately be reached for comment.

A county resolution, approved unanimously, called on the state attorney general and county state’s attorney to launch criminal probes and for the state’s attorney to recover $190,000 in county funds that the board loaned to the superintendent's office last year.
“We took this man on his word, and unfortunately, we were sidetracked and buffaloed,” said Commissioner John Daley (D-Chicago), chairman of the county Finance Committee. The loan is due on June 30.

The resolution was introduced by Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman (R-Orland Park), who was the only commissioner to vote against the loan last year. She said the audit released last week by state Auditor General William Holland indicated “flagrant corruption” in the office.

The audit noted the office deficit more than doubled to $942,000 from 2007 to last year and questioned whether the office had the “ability to continue as a going concern.” The office did not have receipts to back 70 percent of the charges on Flowers’ credit card and paid more than $21,000 to two assistant regional superintendents for consulting work they did during regular working hours,, the audit stated.

Friday, June 12, 2009

State Auditor Seeks Criminal Probe of Charles Flowers!!!!

The state's top auditor called for a criminal probe of the Cook County regional education office after an audit found the director, Charles Flowers, repeatedly used a government credit card for personal expenses and approved questionable payments to relatives on his payroll. Click this link to read the full story:,flowers-audit--0612.article

Here's a summary of the audit's major findings:

The audit concluded that Regional Office of Education #14:

· had inadequate internal control over disbursements. Because of the overall lack of internal controls, questions as to the accuracy and completeness of the general ledger, and problems noted in other findings throughout this report, auditors terminated work before testing was completed and issued a disclaimer of opinion on the financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2008.

· did not have sufficient internal controls over the financial reporting process.

· had liabilities which exceeded its total net assets by $941,844. If the Regional Office continues to operate at the current level without obtaining additional funding or decreasing expenditures, ROE 14’s ability to continue as a going concern is questionable.

· utilized an accounting software package which was not designed for governmental entities and did not provide the internal controls and reporting features required for proper fund accounting.

· did not complete 9 of 12 monthly reconciliations of its bank statements and pooled cash accounts for fiscal year 2008.

· had inadequate controls over property and equipment.

· did not record payroll transactions in their general ledger for 5 months in fiscal year 2008 after they hired an outside agency to prepare their payroll.

· provided cash advances to two employees (Barbara Flowers and Arbdella Patterson) for non-business related purposes.

· paid a total of $1,798 in finance charges, late fees and other miscellaneous service charges on 6 credit cards.

· did not have receipts to support 70 percent of charges on the Regional Superintendent’s credit card. The Regional Superintendent also made numerous personal purchases, took cash advances, and paid for meals (both personal and for staff) on his credit card without properly documenting the purchases and advances.

· paid two Assistant Regional Superintendents $12,000 and $9,400 each in addition to their regular salaries for work completed during regular working hours.

· used Institute Funds for unallowable expenditures under 105 ILCS 5/3-12.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Maywood Police Department Gets New Police Chief...

According to the Proviso Herald and reporter Jolie Lee, Maywood has a new police chief. According to the Herald, Cmdr. Tim Curry takes over for Police Chief Elvia Williams on Friday.

Williams was hired in June 2006 on a two-year contract.

Curry is a 24-year veteran of the department. Since Jan. 2009, he has been promoted three times.

"I kind of thought that most likely I would get deputy chief and that would be it," Curry said.
"But I had no idea whatsoever I would get the spot (of police chief.)"

Village Manager Jason Ervin made the appointment and said Williams is leaving the department to "pursue some other opportunities."

Williams could not be reached immediately for comment Monday morning.

Ervin said he chose Curry based on the recommendations of others, although he declined to say who made those recommendations.

"The process came through a group of individuals that I was working with on public safety issues," Ervin said.

When asked who the individuals were, Ervin said, "That I'm not disclosing at this time." Asked why he was not disclosing the information, he said, "I'm just not disclosing it."

Ervin said he wanted to appoint someone with leadership qualities and knowledge of "the inner workings of the department." Ervin added, "People respect him."

Curry began his career in 1985 as a patrol officer. He became sergeant of the tactical unit in 1996. In January 2009, he was promoted to commander and then to lieutenant two months later.

Curry will be officially sworn in as chief at the July 7 Village Board meeting.