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Article updated: 11/18/2011 5:32 PM

Two DuPage forest preserve administrators out amid accusations

Brent Manning

Brent Manning

 
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Two DuPage County Forest Preserve administrators have been forced out of their jobs and the results of an investigation commissioned by the district into their activities are being turned over to the state's attorney's office.

According to an internal memo sent by Executive Director Brent Manning to district employees, the investigation determined the "two employees violated agency policies and procedures."

Multiple sources with knowledge of the investigation said district officials began looking into whether professional service contracts were being steered toward companies that the now-former employees benefitted from. The sources said the contracts were worth about $12,000 a month and go back at least a year.

One employee was a five-year veteran of the district, while the other had logged nearly 10 years as an employee there.

Contracts worth less than $20,000 can be awarded without board consent, according to forest preserve policy.

Three of the district's six elected commissioners refused to comment about the investigation, while calls to the other three and district President Dewey Pierotti were not returned Friday.

One board member, Roger Kotecki of Warrenville, said it was "way too early to say anything about" changing the district's contract-awarding policies.

In addition to Manning's memo, the district issued a news release regarding the results of the investigation. Its contents varied slightly from Manning's memo to the staff.

"One of the employees resigned Nov. 7. The other was terminated Nov. 15," the release stated. "All taxpayer funds and resources are treated with respect and careful stewardship by district employees. And when that standard is not met, the district acts swiftly and without hesitation to correct the situation."

It's unclear how long the district's investigation lasted. The district hired an "external expert" to conduct the probe, but neither the news release nor memo outlined how much the investigation cost taxpayers.

Manning's memo urged his staff to come to him or their supervisors with any questions or concerns about the investigation, but indicated he believed the alleged misconduct was isolated to the two former employees.

"Though two former employees have violated agency policies through their actions, it is not in any way a reflection of the level of dedication and extraordinary service exhibited daily by our agency," the memo read.

Officials from DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin's office said they have received nothing yet from the district and they will conduct their own investigation into the matter. It could be months before any decision to press charges might be made, officials said.

Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer Josh Stockinger contributed to this report.

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