Monday, April 4, 2011

Preckwinkle Outlines Reforms After Employees Found Having Sex and Drinking on County Time

Posted By on 04.04.11 at 12:35 PM

You may have heard about the teen sex romp at the Cook County Forest Preserve’s Cermak Aquatic Center, in which not only did employees drink, have sex on the job, and provide alcohol to minors, they also stole thousands of dollars in cash and accumulated more than $166,000 in unapproved overtime and paid lunch breaks.

The news surfaced last week after the county’s inspector general released a report detailing the findings of surveillance cameras and auditing. The case has been forwarded to the state’s attorney, and the fired supervisor of the aquatic center may face charges.

Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle said she was appalled by the actions of the employees — mostly high school- and college-age seasonal workers. She and forest preserve superintendent Arnold Randall today announced a number of measures that they say will prevent employees from engaging in such activities in the future.

Among them: new cash-management procedures to ensure all money is accounted for; installation of security cameras in the aquatic centers; ethics and management training; and a new hiring process that will closer scrutinize applicants.

“Culturally, what’s been going on for a long time, is people have not managed well and not paid attention,” Randall said during a press conference at the County Building. “There are basic management principles that weren’t followed here.”

Randall said forest preserve supervisors will be on-site more than they were in the past.

“We’re talking about actually managing our pools, as opposed to just sending folks out and letting them do what they want to do, and not training them,” he said.

Randall said a new online hiring process would ensure that employees were hired based on merit, not clout, and that the forest preserve will hire its lifeguards earlier than in the past to ensure they have adequate time for training.

The inspector general’s report led to the firing of two supervisors who did not work at the pool but had oversight of the employees. Three others were suspended. All the seasonal staff implicated were fired before the new administration took over in December.

Randall said overtime will not be authorized for seasonal employees, and that the forest preserve would hire at least four additional lifeguards would be hired. There were 12 lifeguards at the Cermak pool last year.

The aquatic centers operated at a loss of more than $210,000 last year. Randall said he fully supports prosecution of the pool’s supervisor, but did not say if the forest preserve would recoup the $4,000 stolen by employees.

The inspector general’s report was the latest in what Preckwinkle described as a regular occurrence. She said she has gotten about a report a week from Inspector General Patrick Blanchard, whose budget was increased more than 30 percent this year.

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