Probe report: County workers had sex, drank at pool

March 26, 2011 7:42:53 AM PDT
Cook County employees at a forest preserve pool are accused of drinking, having sex on the job and giving minors alcohol.

The findings are the result of an investigation by the Cook County Inspector General.

The investigation also found theft and time card fraud that cost taxpayers more than $200,000.

Inspector General Patrick Blanchard started with a tip and ended up finding, what he called: "Systemic deficiencies and gross mismanagement at Cook County's three aquatic centers."

The tip, or initial allegation, was that employees were skimming money from the pool fees.

Two undercover cameras revealed much more.

On opening day, the Cermak Aquatic Center in Lyons, Ill., was abuzz with activity.

Less than three years later, it still is, but for a different reason.

Investigators placed two undercover cameras in the pool's office after receiving a tip last summer that employees were skimming money. They recorded 120 hours of video evidence in August and September.

The video, according to the Inspector General's report, shows workers "engaging in sexual relations," "employees consuming alcoholic beverages" and "providing the alcohol to minors," and "employees lounging and sleeping for hours at a time."

"There is no business organization that would put up with this type of behavior but when we are dealing with taxpayer dollars, it's clear that something needs to be done, and needs to be done right away," said Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey.

The pool problems happened when Todd Stroger was Cook County Board President. So on Friday, President Toni Preckwinkle responded, saying in part:

"This report makes it clear why we are making dramatic changes in the Forest Preserve District. We appointed a new superintendent and deputy superintendent immediately after I took office."

"We're here to make changes. We expected to find some skeletons in the closet, so they're starting to pop out now," said Cook County Forest Preserve Superintendent Arnold Randall.

Randall says one full-time and eight seasonal employees have been fired and will not work for the forest preserve again.

"We want people to come out and enjoy our pools, not have to worry about whether the staff is doing its job or not," Randall said.

When ABC7 asked how he'll make sure that happens, he said: "Much closer supervision, frankly, from the top down. I'll be out at the pools to make sure that things are working properly."

The Inspector General's report also says there was fiscal mismanagement at Cermak, Whealan and Green Lake pools.

Last summer, the pools reported an operational loss of nearly $210,000 dollars.

Investigators found "widespread time card fraud." In fact, more than $166,000 was paid in overtime last summer and every penny was without justification and unapproved.

To top it off, the superintendent revealed Friday night that the Inspector General is still investigating.

"We're working hand in hand with them. I've been briefed on a lot of things they're looking at and I'm eager to get reports so I can make changes," Randall said.

The superintendent says a total of 17 employees were under investigation.

As far as criminal charges, forest preserve officials say five employees were cited for underage drinking, and one adult employee, Angel Santana, is facing a misdemeanor charge for providing alcohol to minors.

Santana is scheduled to be in court on Thursday.


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