On Stroger's last day, spending questions remain

December 2, 2010 5:08:08 AM PST
Todd Stroger's reign over Cook County government is over. Stroger presided as president of the county board for the last time Wednesday.

In this Intelligence Report: Stroger's departure does not end the questions about how he spent county money.

It has been nearly three months since the I-Team began looking into how Stroger and Cook County spent millions of dollars in federal disaster funds-- three months since we first told you about a catered party at the Brookfield Zoo thrown by Stroger for flood victims.

And now, three months later, as Todd Stroger leaves, what we found is under investigation by the Cook County inspector general.

It was the Sunday afternoon picnic last September that first raised suspicions about how federal disaster grant money was being spent by the Stroger administration, thousands of dollars on food, entertainment and door prizes for victims of severe flooding two years earlier.

But, even as the zoo party was under way, hundreds of flood victims still had basement's that still smelled like the zoo because their promised flood relief money never arrived.

At first, county officials told the I-Team the $80,000 tab for the zoo picnic was an authorized use of federal disaster grant money. Then they said that everything had been donated and no tax money was used.

By the time Stroger's office gave the I-Team the records it requested -- six weeks later than required under Freedom of Information laws -- it was back to the original story: Almost $80,000 in grant money that could have been used for flood relief was spent at the zoo.

Wednesday, after his last meeting, Todd Stroger said this wasn't a party, more like a victim information day.

"I don't believe it was a party," Stroger said. "I believe what they used the funds for was to have an event to attract people to come out to do things, not only designed to help with the disaster itself, but to have them come out to see vendors that can help with other issues that they may have...I think that if you believe everything you hear that you would think that nothing happened, but I want to say about 85 percent of the money went to repairs and appliances."

While Cook County's inspector general confirmed his office is now looking into how $10 million in disaster funds were spent, outgoing President Todd Stroger contends that it was all on the up and up.

Stroger told ABC7'S Ben Bradley late Wednesday afternoon that he has no idea whether there is a parallel federal investigation of his administration's spending.


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