CPS inspector general reports 1,457 complaints alleging waste, misconduct, fraud in 2017
Although it was able to investigate only a fraction of the complaints it received, the Chicago Public Schools Office of the Inspector General (OIG) noted in its annual report that it logged nearly 1,500 reports of alleged misconduct, waste, fraud and financial mismanagement during fiscal 2017.
The largest chunk of complaints, aside from the 366 categorized as miscellaneous, fell under mismanagement, with 274 complaints logged. Rounding out the top five most frequent complaints were residency (a student attends from outside the district) at 168 times; discourteous treatment, logged 139 times; and tuition fraud, with 65 complaints, the report stated.
“Of the 1,457 total complaints received, the OIG opened investigations into a total of 276 cases (18.9%),” the report stated. “Several factors restrict the number of cases the OIG can open and investigate, including (1) a continuing focus on significant and often complex issues; (2) a particularly small staff size in relation to the OIG’s total oversight responsibility (CPS has over 30,000 employees and an annual budget of $5.46 billion); and (3) time consumed by post-investigation activities (e.g., preparation and testimony for hearings, trials and labor arbitrations).”
According to the report, the OIG investigated several broad categories of complaints, including theft and other financial misconduct, procurement violations, residency and tuition fraud, payroll fraud and abuse of sick time, ethics violations, criminal behavior, and criminal background cases.
Here is an overview of the major categories of investigated complaints:
Theft: A wide-scale misuse of gift cards cost the district more than $250,000 over a three-year period, plus an elementary school principal’s four-year embezzlement spree allegedly cost the district an additional $22,000.
Procurement: Three vendors were identified as selling office supplies in violation of district rules limiting the amount spent with one vendor. A textbook publisher that was issued a $24 million contract failed to meet women- or minority-owned business requirements. One principal violated procedure by steering too much business to a specific vendor.
Residency and tuition: More than a dozen teachers or other personnel were caught living in the suburbs, rather than the city, and were fired for violating policy. Several teachers and their children who were also students violated residency policy and several others lied on applications for selective-enrollment schools.
Payroll fraud: A school counselor was caught inflating the number of hours he worked, while other teachers used sick time to take vacations or attend weddings. One teacher resigned after being accused of using sick leave to get another job.
Ethics violations: Several employees improperly did business with CPS, including one who profited by selling $800 worth of frozen turkeys to the district. Another donated horses and improperly registered them, and one teacher violated policy by accepting gifts from a private school. One network chief allegedly attempted to coerce three teachers to increase her son’s grades.
Criminal behavior: At least five teachers were fired and subsequently prosecuted for sexual contact with minors, including sending inappropriate text messages. Five other employees faced driving under the influence arrests, and others were charged with battery, vendor fraud, shoplifting or resisting arrest.