Records reveal how flood aid was used

November 22, 2010 (CHICAGO)

After weeks of saying there were no records available or they were working on them, Cook County officials provided the I-Team with a look at 2,000 pages of spending records.

The paperwork reveals how Cook County spent $10 million in federal tax money that was supposed to be used as disaster aid for 2008 flood victims.

Cook County went from a state of emergency in 2008 to a state of confusion in 2010. That is one conclusion to be drawn from a mish-mash of files released Monday to the I-Team, weeks after officials were required to provide them under Freedom of Information laws.

The packets, organized in hand-indexed files and in no particular order, still appear to be missing numerous sections.

Of $10 million authorized to pay Cook County homeowners who suffered damage in the devastating 2008 floods, vouchers examined by the I-Team total only $4.9 million.

According to records, Cook County's temporary flood grant director Barry Croll was given a Chevy Suburban to drive between his home in a far western suburb not even in Cook County at a cost to the taxpayers of $2,500 per month. That was on top of Croll's per month salary.

It appears about half of the $10 million went to management and overhead. What was left paid for construction work on only 300 homes, and when the program ended in October, the plug was pulled on most of that work in mid-project.

One conspicuous set of records missing from what the I-Team was given Monday: anything related to a party at the Brookfield Zoo in late August, a catered buffet with entertainment and door prizes that was thrown by flood disaster grant officials for victims, most of whom are still waiting for their disaster aid.

If homeowners didn't receive what they were promised by Cook County officials, some vendors must have been pleasantly surprised. One village government was reimbursed for overtime paid to municipal employees, including overtime for emergency vehicles standing guard over three downed power lines.

Records show much of the money was funneled through outside vendors, including one who charged the county $400 per home to do a walk-through appraisal.

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