Sunday, October 28, 2012

Can't See the Forest for the Sleaze: Happy Trails Between the DuPage County's Forest Preserve District & State's Attorney's Office

"Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, 'til we meet again." -- Dale Evans Rogers

Recent "fraud scheme" charges against former employees and a vendor of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County raise disturbing questions of fairness and even legitimacy due to the District's historic cronyism with the DuPage State's Attorney's office. Of the 145 miles of trails at the Forest Preserve, the most consequential is invisible -- leading straight from the District's headquarters on Naperville Road to the law enforcers' office at 503 N. County Farm Road in Wheaton.

On Sept. 5th, Paul Biasco reported in the Daily Herald's, "DuPage Forest Preserve Employees Charged in Fraud Scheme," that the former director of information technology department, Mark McDonald, and the department manager, David Tepper, were accused of "stealing more than $100,000 from the district over a six-year period".

The article continued that a third man, Arif Mahmood, who worked for Alamach Technology, Inc., an IT vendor for the district, was charged with "being involved in one of the schemes".

Local government citizen watchdogs claim vendors contracted by the Forest Preserve District to conduct this internal IT investigation and to handle the crisis strategies surrounding the criminal charges have connections with the DuPage State's Attorney's office which are too close for comfort. The District's hiring of a finance director this year also bring concerns of a conflict of interest with the County's prosecutor.

The Daily Herald, in conjunction with the Better Government Association, published, "FBI Joins Probe of DuPage Forest District Contracts," on Aug. 2nd. "The FBI is 'part of the investigation,' (DuPage Forest Preserve District President) Pierotti said, along with the state's attorney's office," Andrew Schroedter and Elizabeth Mistretta wrote.

Despite outcries from citizens over months, the Forest Preserve District continues to have no Ethics Commission, as required by law. The District's ethics policy meets the minimal state standard with no amendments. Click here and here for the District's reactions to citizens who dare to question the investigation and FBI probe.