Conscience Laureate

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Earlier this week I wrote about the hearing that State Rep. Jack Franks ( D-Marengo) was gong to hold to investigate fraudulent billing in the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS.)  The hearing came about after a report issued by the Office of Executive Inspector General (OEIG) and the Inspector General of DCFS alleged financial misconduct at Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Now the results.

At the hearing, Rep. Jack Franks demanded of Quinn’s general counsel, John Schomberg, why Erwin McEwen, chief of the Department of Children and Family Services, was allowed to resign rather than be fired after inspectors discovered that George E. Smith, a friend of the former director, collected millions of dollars for shoddy or non-existent work. Schomberg testified at the hearing that McEwen stayed on for a month after the governor requested his resignation because he had "too much institutional knowledge" and was needed for a "thoughtful transition" at the department.  Smith and his various organizations collected $18 million in state grants from 2008 through 2011.

According to the Associated Press, “Franks asked Schomberg in jest if the transition was to train the next leadership team on ‘how to loot.’ And Franks pointed to a glowing press release announcing that McEwen was ‘leaving the agency to pursue new opportunities’ as possible evidence of an attempt to cover up the situation.”   Franks said by issuing a statement like that, "This government was deceitful to the public."

Schomberg also said that by accepting the resignation of McEwen the department avoided a potential law suit. "I can't believe the cowardice," Franks exclaimed in reaction, "Let him sue. Who cares? Do what's right."

Besides Franks holding a hearing to get answers, the Illinois attorney general’s office is working to recover some of the money collected by Smith.  He allegedly submitted fake papers, forged people’s signatures, turned in fraudulent expense accounts and falsely claimed he was a psychiatrist.

AP reported that Ann Spillane, Chief of Staff for Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said, “It’s a lot of money. We’re going to have trouble finding [enough assets].”  Spillane said that the matter has been given “a very high priority” and that the case has been referred to federal prosecutors.

If it were almost any other politician beside Jack Franks, a person could worry that the hearing’s purpose was merely to make a media splash.  Then the story would be forgotten as so many of the previous cases of abuses and fraud have been.  I have written about them and nothing ever seems to happen.  But Franks won’t let it go away.  The Governor will not be able to put his hands over his eyes like a three year old and pretend something does not exist just because he cannot see it. 


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