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updated: 9/27/2012 8:51 PM

$100,000 unaccounted for in Cook County Board expenses

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Nearly $100,000 of the Cook County Board members' expenses over the past three years is unaccounted for.

That's according to a report from the county's inspector general, who looked into the board's "contingency funds" and found questionable spending practices on top of the missing funds.

Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard's investigation uncovered $98,039 had been spent by commissioners with no record of what the money was used to purchase. Blanchard's report did not indicate which of the board's 17 members were responsible for the missing funds, and he refused to name the commissioners when asked.

"I am sorry that I am not permitted to release information concerning individual cases," he wrote via email.

Over a three-year period, members of the board received $360,586 but submitted documentation for only $262,547, the report stated.

In addition to the undocumented expenses, Blanchard's report questioned some of the invoices that were submitted. That includes one commissioner's use of the funds to help purchase a car.

Blanchard's report noted that some commissioners' invoices were also lacking required details, such as the case of a dinner for eight costing more than $250 where the names of those who ate and the purpose of the dinner were not included.

"We believe this lack of transparency in the process should be addressed," Blanchard's report read.

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said she will work with the commissioners to tighten the accounting practices.

"I agree with the inspector general that the contingency fund ordinance that commissioners passed in June was an important first step to correcting problems encountered with the use of contingency funds," she said.

Until last June, commissioners would receive the funds -- amounting to nearly $1,000 a month -- and then were required to submit expense statements or reimburse the county any unused funds, county officials said. Since that time, the county requires "documentation of expenses be submitted prior to receiving" the funds, the report stated.

Commissioner Timothy Schneider, a Republican from Bartlett, said he was not "aware of any" missing documentation of his use of contingency funds, calling the invoices "absolutely necessary." Schneider said the commissioners responsible for the undocumented $100,000 should either provide the proper documents or reimburse the county.

"Any commissioner should be held accountable if they spend the contingency funds or are reimbursed for those expenses allowed under the ethics ordinance," he said.

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