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Kirk Calls for Criminal Probe of Project Shield

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Lawmakers ask FBI to open criminal probe.

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Cook County Board President Todd Stroger left office over a year ago. When he was defeated by Toni Preckwinkle, his mismanagement of county government seemed like only a local issue. Now, Sen. Mark Kirk and Rep. Mike Quigley are calling for a criminal probe into a Homeland Security Inspector General’s investigation that Cook County misspent $45 million in federal funds.

The money was part of Project Shield, which was intended to provide 128 municipalities with two vehicles capable of mobile data transmission, a WiFi hotspot and a tower camera.

According to the Inspector General’s report:

Cook County did not always comply with procurement, property,
and record requirements. We found missing records, improper
procurement practices, unallowable costs, and unaccountable
inventory items. We were unable to reconcile invoices with the
contracts and modifications, and we could not verify that all
incurred costs were reasonable, allowable, and allocable. For
example:
The project was initiated in FY 2005 and incurred
approximately $7 million in maintenance cost for 6 years,
even though maintenance costs were not allowed for prior
grant year acquisitions until 2010.
The county awarded a noncompetitive contract on Phase 2
for $11.3 million.
Phase 1 and 2 contracts had 218 change orders, and we
were unable to obtain documentation for 168 change orders
with some changes amounting to as much as $413,555.
The county approved major revisions to the Phase 2 contract
without evidence of grantee approval. For example, Change
Order No. 130-2 altered an $11 million contract, reducing
the line items by more than $6 million and then substituting
new items totaling $4.3 million, additional maintenance for
$1.1 million, and a $750,000 contingency fund.
Sampling of decommissioned equipment from Phases 1 and
2 revealed that 18% of the items were missing from the
inventory. Physical inventory reconciliations were not
performed as required.
The Phase 3 contract had only one change order, which
extended the contract 6 months without additional costs.
However, this contract increased from $10.9 million to
approximately $23 million, and the contract period was
extended over 2 years.

“These findings warrant further investigation into the potential criminal misuse of federal funds,” Kirk and Quigley wrote in a letter to the FBI’s Chicago office. “Last June, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle canceled the program, which was created and implemented by Presidents John Stroger and Todd Stroger.

This step is in line with Inspector General recommendations, but more must be done to ensure federal and local accountability. We have enclosed the full Inspector General report for your review.” 

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Related Topics Mark Kirk, Toni Preckwinkle
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