The net of ongoing and potential investigations of lame-duck Cook County Board President Todd Stroger tightened around him Friday with U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley of Chicago calling on the U.S. General Accountability Office to probe so-called 24-nine contracts.
In a letter to GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, the former Democratic Cook County commissioner specifically cited a $24,995 contract issued to Bora Planning, a company owned by former Stroger campaign treasurer Vincent Fry and using the same address as a Stroger campaign fund that closed down last year.
Quigley charged the contract was issued and paid in two days, a practice county board commissioners have suggested is a deliberate attempt to skirt a 72-hour notification ordinance passed this month. The "24-nine" contracts, meanwhile, got their name for the amounts they're made out for - $24,900 and change - just under the $25,000 limit requiring board approval for personal services.
The county's online checkbook also shows that Bora was paid about $50,000 over 10 checks in March for "miscellaneous professional services."
Quigley also charged the $24,995 contract was authorized by Carla Oglesby, Stroger's deputy chief of staff and former campaign spokeswoman. She is under investigation by the county inspector general for paying her own CGC Communications $24,975 shortly after joining Stroger's administration following his loss in the Democratic primary in February. She went on to sign eight $24,995 deals for census outreach last month, which also appear to be under investigation by the Cook inspector general.
Eugene Mullins, Stroger's director of communications, said the county already was under investigation by the GAO and therefore he could not comment on any new allegations. He added he could not comment on what services Bora was performing for the county.
"I suppose we shouldn't be surprised when someone who put himself before his constituents while in office acts no differently on his way out," Quigley said in a prepared statement, "but this is bigger than Todd Stroger. State and local governments have received significant amounts of federal assistance recently, and with that increased funding must come increased oversight and accountability. If we're going to restore the public's trust in government, we must ensure that our constituents' hard-earned tax dollars are spent appropriately, efficiently and transparently."
Quigley called on the GAO to investigate, saying, "I am deeply concerned that the county is misspending funds it receives from the federal government."
Evanston Democratic Commissioner Larry Suffredin, a longtime Quigley ally on the county board, has said the county could be on the line for repayment for any work paid for and not performed.
Quigley served as county commissioner for more than a decade before winning a race to replace Rahm Emanuel in Congress last year.
The U.S. attorney's office and the Cook County State's Attorney have both said they cannot confirm or deny any potential or ongoing investigations, although the state's attorney recently launched a campaign against government malfeasance called "Operation Cookie Jar."