School executive in court on corruption charges

January 15, 2010 3:22:27 PM PST
An attorney is suggesting that it was sloppy accounting, not criminal conduct, that led to the arrest of the suburban Cook County school superintendent. Dr. Charles Flowers spent the night in jail before posting bond Friday afternoon. He is accused of taking nearly $400,000 from the regional office.

The state's attorney says Flowers engaged in "repulsive corruption." Flowers' attorney suggests it is a simple misunderstanding.

He spent Thursday night in jail, and that has apparently left Charles Flowers in no mood to answer questions. He refused to say whether he would resign.

"I have no comment, you can talk to my attorney," Flowers said.

Flowers is an elected official, tasked with certifying teachers and bus drivers for 143 school districts in suburban Cook County. Now, he is charged with using an office he promised to reform as his own personal piggy bank.

Prosecutors say Flowers illegally withdrew more than $340,000 for employee salaries and benefits from a restricted fund. He also allegedly took out $15,000 in cash advances for his sister and girlfriend, who are on his payroll, and used his government credit card to pay for personal trips to Mississippi.

Flowers decided against answering questions and instead ducked into a county office building Friday. ABC 7 found him cooling his heels and trying to avoid our cameras in an office that issues marriage licenses.

"We're talking about a gentleman who has spent his adult life taking care of the children of Cook County...He should be given the benefit of the doubt," said Tim Grace, Flowers' attorney.

Flowers' attorney says his client has reimbursed the office for his personal credit card purchases. The suburban Cook County regional school office is in disarray and running a $1 million budget deficit. Its website says it is temporarily closed. A recorded phone message says it is not.

All signs are Flowers has no plan to give up his $103,000-a-year elected position.

"I think he'll go back to work today when he's done. I hope he would. That's what the county expects," said Grace.

ABC 7 called the office to see if Flowers did in fact report to work. A woman who answered the phone refused to say.

Despite his financial difficulties, Flowers did come up with the $10,000 he needed to post bail.