The Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education's purpose is to provide teacher certifications and support for suburban Cook County schools. But investigators suspect the educator who runs it used the place as a personal piggy bank for friends and family.
Law enforcement arrived at the non-descript office on Wednesday morning, seizing computers, hard drives and documents from the Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education. But their hunt for evidence didn't end there. They also made the short drive over to Maywood and paid a visit to the home of Superintendent Charles Flowers to gather more potential evidence.
"All the Superintendent did upon his election was to feel like he won the lottery, hiring his family and friends and padding the payroll," said Cmsr. Liz Gorman, (R) Orland Park.
An audit earlier this summer revealed Flowers used his school district credit card to pay for airline tickets for a family trip to Mississippi. He also used it to pay for a rental car there and withdraw $7,000 as a cash advance.
The audit also found he approved a $15,000 cash advance for his executive assistant - who happens to be his sister - and another employee.
Flowers' office was nearly half-a-million dollars in the red, when he asked County Board members to loan it $190,000. The loan was supposed to be repaid yesterday. It wasn't.
Commissioner Liz Gorman was the only member of the board to vote against the loan.
"We're going to press on to see what we can get back out of him, out of the office. It's a terrible precedent to be in the business of loaning money the county doesn't even have," said Gorman.
Although the lights were on, the doors were locked at the education office this afternoon.
No one came to the door at Dr. Flowers' home.
Cook County Commissioners will consider a resolution on Thursday that calls on him to resign. They'll also ask the state to abolish the office all together.
"They do teacher certifications, bus driver certifications. They do a variety of administrative functions which I believe could be easily assumed by the state board of education. That's what the resolution calls for," said Cmsr. Pete Silvestri, (R) Elmwood Park.
In the 1990s, the Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education was dissolved for a few years, its functions handled by other agencies.
As for the $190,000 loan Cook County taxpayers gave the office, it's unclear whether it can be repaid.
Cook County prosecutors confirm Dr. Flowers is a target of their investigation, but he has not been charged.