OEIG exposes misconduct in fire marshal's office
An investigation by the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General (OEIG) has led to disciplinary action being taken against at least two Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM) employees who worked on elevator safety at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
The findings stem from an April 2017 complaint to OEIG that alleged that James Aubin, then an elevator inspector with OFSM, improperly entered data for at least 266 elevator inspections spanning a seven-year period beginning in 2010. The elevators in question were cleared for certificates of operation even though applicable fees for the vast majority of them had not been received.
In a final OEIG redacted report, at least one employee told investigators that Aubin would frequently print certificates of operation without receiving payment. In 2017, an audit of the OSFM system showed that of the nearly 82,000 elevator inspection reports generated by the agency over a decade-long period, 342 of them were issued without applicable fees being paid, with Aubin being responsible for 71 percent of the discrepancies and UIC being the central location for all of them.
Over the course of its investigation, OEIG officials concluded that OSFM had not been keeping adequate paperwork for many of the elevator inspections done on the UIC campus. Investigators noted that James Hernandez, the school’s former lead mechanic, pled guilty earlier this year to pocketing at least $200,000 in kickbacks as part of a scheme to steer elevator repair and maintenance work to a local company.
Finally, in addition to finding that Aubin committed malfeasance in at least 242 instances by issuing certificates of operation without insuring that payment had been received, investigators concluded that OFSM Elevator Safety Division Director Robert Capuani “mismanaged the elevator safety division by failing to take reasonable steps to timely address Aubin’s misconduct and ensure that elevator certificates of operation were properly issued.”
OEIG recommendations included that Aubin, no longer employed by OSFM, never be rehired and that Capuani face whatever actions the agency deems appropriate.