According to the Daily Southtown, Charles Flowers has two weeks before a judge will boot him and his staff out of his rented office space - making it possibly the first time a regional schools office has been evicted.
Nearly $10,000 behind on rent for the offices he leases from Westchester School District 92 1/2 , Regional Supt. Flowers has until Nov. 2 to pay up and pack up, attorneys said Monday.
"The board of education [wants to] recoup the unpaid rent, and they want to gain possession of the office space," district attorney Jeff Goelitz said.
Flowers is the target of a criminal investigation by the Cook County state's attorney's office. The SouthtownStar first reported on the alleged financial and ethical misdeeds of Flowers and the Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education - which is nearly $1 million in debt.
The Westchester school board filed eviction papers on Sept. 29, and Cook County sheriff's officials served the office Oct. 7. Flowers' office owed $9,933.36 at the time of the filing. That did not include rent for October and November - $3,429 per month - which is about $7,000.
The case was continued Monday after both parties agreed to hold off until Nov. 2, Goelitz said.
"The ROE believes that some of their financial difficulties are due to the state not sending their payments on," district attorney Terry Hodges said.
Even if he makes good on the nearly $17,000, the district wants him out.
This should come as no surprise for Flowers. Documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests reveal Flowers' office has a sporadic track record when it comes to making rent.
In July, the board sent a letter to Flowers telling him he had five days to make good on the $20,000 in back rent for February through July.
Business manager Julie Stearns proposed a payment plan that entailed almost weekly payments of $5,000, including the initial $5,000 charged to a credit card, documents show.
When the office failed to make good on the entire back rent by the agreed upon deadline of Aug. 21, the board moved for the eviction.
"We did try to work with him," board president Barbara Stanger said at the time.
Charles Flowers has consistently refused to answer questions about the charges of financial mismanagement, but in the past he and his staffers have blamed the regional office of education's money problems on a lack of funding from the state.
State law does require the county board in every county except Cook to provide a suitable space for the regional office.
Cook County's unusual situation dates back to money problems with some of Flowers' predecessors. The state Legislature abolished the Cook County regional schools office in 1994 and resurrected it in 1995 - minus responsibility for Chicago city schools and minus any county funding for an office.
If Flowers is evicted, he still is legally responsible for providing services to the 143 school districts in his area, said Illinois State Board of Education spokeswoman Mary Fergus, who added she was not aware of any other regional office losing its office space in an eviction.
As for the public records, they are covered by the State or Local Records Act, which bans records from being destroyed or abandoned unless scheduled for destruction, said Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler.
"In short, they will have to ensure the integrity of the records by storing them somewhere or otherwise providing for their safekeeping until the matter is ultimately resolved," she said.
Since accusations of financial improprieties at the regional school office surfaced, Supt. Charles Flowers has faced a growing list of problems:
• He's the target of a criminal probe by the Cook County state's attorney's office.
• He's being sued for fraud over an unpaid $190,000 loan from the Cook County Board.
• The Illinois State Board of Education has moved to revoke his professional certificates, which could force him from office.