Former County Official Kept “Consulting Fees” for Personal Use: FBI

Dudley Donelson was fired from the county earlier this year

A former Deputy Director in the Cook County Bureau of Technology told federal authorities he accepted at least $10,000 in "consulting fees" from companies vying for county projects, documents obtained by NBC Chicago show.

The revelation came as FBI agents questioned that official, Dudley Donelson, in September 2010 about Project Shield, the $45 million project intended to keep first responders connected.

According to the interview report, known as an FD-302, Donelson used the money he'd collected for personal use.

"Donelson initially stated that he provided consulting services," to two companies trying to get County contracts, the report stated. The names of those companies were blacked out in the copy obtained by NBC Chicago.

Questioned further about what turned out to be his phony consulting company -- Lifting Up Jesus Anointed -- Donelson admitted, according to the document, that he could produce no documentation, no invoices, no receipts, and no work product for the money he received.

Project Shield was born out of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Federal grant money started pouring into Illinois to outfit suburban police cars with state of the art cameras to feed live video back to a central command in times of an emergency.

According to a 2004 letter obtained by NBC Chicago, Donelson’s office had a decision-making role in recommending a "prime contractor" to equip those cars.

IBM was the original prime contractor for Project Shield. For reasons never fully articulated, in 2008 IBM’s contract was not renewed by the county and Johnson Controls of Milwaukee was brought in.

In a statement, Johnson Controls said after an extensive search they could find no payments to either Donelson or Lifting Up Jesus Anointed.

IBM did not return our phone call.

Almost from the beginning there were technical complaints about Project Shield.  Some suburban police departments went as far as removing the cameras from their squad cars. Other departments declined to participate.
With problems persisting, Senator Mark Kirk and Congressman Mike Quigley called for an audit by the Inspector General’s office.

In January Kirk and Quigley released the audit, which said as much as $20 million tax dollars may have been wasted. 

First as a County Commissioner and then as a member of Congress, Quigley was an early critic, raising a red flag about Project Shield.

"This for the first time helps us begin to understand, why those red flags were there. What was behind the process," he said after being shown the FBI report.

Quigley said the report shows "motivations for moving the system forward, even though it wasn’t working. And that was profit."

"There were a number of major corporations and companies involved with Project Shield who continued this process even though it wasn’t working," he added, "Who were incompetent, who wasted $45 million of taxpayers money, who were never, ever held accountable. To this day."
In 2011, newly-elected Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle pulled the plug on Project Shield, which was $15 million over budget, plagued with persistent technical problems and incomplete.
Donelson earlier this summer pleaded guilty to an unrelated bank fraud charge and received three years probation.  He was fired from the county earlier this year.

His attorney did not return calls.
Board President Toni Preckwinkle said by phone last week she believes the FBI is still  investigating Project Shield.

Full Coverage: Project Shield
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