4 gov't workers charged in corruption crackdown

May 4, 2010 (CHICAGO) The Cook County state's attorney says the charges are part of an on-going crackdown on public corruption.

The four men are the first to be arrested in a crackdown called "Operation Cookie Jar".

While the feds have gone after Illinois governors, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez says she is working with local law enforcement to prosecute public corruption from the bottom up.

A park district employee, a bar association director, a special education director and a suburban village accountant are all accused of stealing public money. Alvarez says their jobs may not be as glamorous as a governor, but she says corruption takes place at all levels of government.

"Our message today to anyone who would engage in this type of behavior is simple. If you chose to line your pockets with public funds or betray the public trust, you will be prosecuted," said Alvarez.

Robert Baldwin is the former director of fiscal services for Niles Township District for special education. The 67-year-old is charged with using a district-issued credit card to pay for over $10,000 worth of airline tickets, rental cars, personal computers and cell phones.

"This theft is particularly disturbing as it came from public funds which were designated for children with special needs," said Alvarez.

Michael Tracy, 48, is accused of stealing over $55,000 from the Southwest Bar Association.

Donald Jacobs is the former treasurer for the city of Posen park district. The 62-year-old is charged with stealing $266,000 dollars over a period of time from the park district, which has an annual budget of $180,000.

"In all of these cases it was a combination of insider information and also from concerned citizens that alerted us to the problem," said Alvarez.

In the case of Martin Boyd, it took a new mayor to discover through an audit that the former village of Harwood Heights accountant had allegedly stole over $135,000 from the village by overpaying himself during a three year period.

"You can't put your full faith in one person without having somebody also working alongside them to make sure that the transactions they do are also reviewed by another person in the office," said Mayor Arlene Jezierny, Harwood Heights.

Jezierny says because of the theft cuts were made in the village budget.

To keep corruption out of local government Alvarez says the system of checks and balances is key. She says longtime public officials get away with stealing money because they are trusted and no one is checking.

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