(WGN-AM)- In a symbolic move, the Cook County Board today unanimously approved a resolution calling for the regional school superintendent's office to be abolished.
The action comes a day after state's attorney investigators raided the home and office of Supt. Charles Flowers. Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman (R-Orland Park), a longtime Flowers critic, also urged the state's attorney's office to file a suit to recover $190,000 the county loaned to Flowers' office last year. Payment, due Tuesday, has not been made.
Asst. State's Atty. Patrick Driscoll, chief of the office'civil action bureau, said his office is drafting a complaint to seek recovery of the loan. He also said it is considering filing a suit that would force Flowers out of office.
The General Assembly has the authority to abolish the office, which handles teacher and bus driver certification and conducts safety inspections at suburban county schools.
Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for State's Atty. Anita Alvarez, said yesterday her office launched a criminal probe of Flowers' office in April. During the raids, investigators removed laptop computers, cell phones and boxes of files, sources said.
A recent state audit found that Flowers' office was nearly $1 million in debt after he made personal charges on an office credit card and gave a $6,000 advance to a relative he hired to work in his office.
"Even in the absence of Dr. Flowers, this office never ran efficiently," Gorman said.
A bill was introduced by Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) last week to eliminate the office. If that happens, the office's duties would be handled by the State Board of Education.
The office was abolished for a period in the early 1990s --- a move that board President Todd Stroger, a former state legislator, said was "more of a political thing."
Stroger also said: "We all are disappointed in Mr. Flowers and what really seems to be stealing money, allegedly. . . . There needs to be more oversight. Abolishing the office does not cure the problem. It really creates another problem, but I understand the anger."
But Commissioner Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park), who along with Gorman and Commissioner John Daley (D-Chicago) was one of three primary resolution sponsors, said the office just isn't needed. "The regional office of Cook County is an unnecessary government," he said.
(The Chicago Tribune contributed to this story)
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