New Inspector General report claims mismanagement at DCFS

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A scathing report released Friday claims the former director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, George Sheldon, mismanaged the agency.

The report was compiled by the Illinois Executive Inspector General.

When Governor Bruce Rauner took office over two-and-half years ago, he boasted about his "superstar team" he hired to shake up state government. One was Florida's George Sheldon, who took over the embattled Department of Children and Family Services, but Sheldon became embattled himself when state inspectors began an ethics investigation.

In a report released Friday, the Inspector General found that Sheldon mismanaged DCFS.

"There has been a real lack of consistent, sustained leadership to move the agency forward in the direction it needs to go to serve children under its care," said Ed Yohnka with the ACLU.

Overseeing a consent decree for reform at DCFS, the ACLU has had to deal with ten different DCFS directors in the past seven years. Sheldon resigned in June following the death of 18-month-old Semaj Crosby and amid the ethics probe.

Friday's report found Sheldon awarded a no-bid contract to a company he had a financial relationship with.

In addition, Sheldon used a state car for a vacation in Saugatuk, Michigan, and improperly signed off on time sheets for a personal assistant who reported working on days when he was on vacation.

"It turns out you have these ethical lapses on one hand and on the other you have conditions that were not really improved for children in DCFS care that is damming for us about the report," said Yohnka.

Beverly Walker is the latest DCFS director and she has promised real changes at the agency, but Rachel Ruttenberg with the nonprofit Family Defense Center isn't holding her breath.

"With that position being sort of a revolving door, it makes any kind of real reform next to impossible," said Rachel Ruttenberg with the Family Defense Center.

In response to Friday's Inspector General Report, DCFS Director Beverly Walker said the department is reviewing its procurement process to make sure all contracts are properly awarded. In addition, Walker said she is committed to leading the agency in an ethical manner.
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