SPRINGFIELD, -- The new director of Illinois' child-welfare agency pleaded guilty to stealing money from clients of a Chicago social-service agency 20 years ago, according to a published report.
The Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ Radio reported Monday that Arthur Bishop faced a felony theft charge in 1995 when the Department of Family and Child Services hired him as a caseworker.
He was accused of stealing more than $9,000 from clients of the Bobby W. Wright Comprehensive Community Mental Health Center who thought Bishop was helping them get their driver's licenses back after drunken driving convictions.
DCFS officials said the department wouldn't have been allowed to consider the pending theft charge against Bishop when he was hired. Later that year, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.
The 61-year-old Bishop was at DCFS until 2010, when he took over the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. Gov. Pat Quinn sent him to the DCFS helm last month.
Quinn has no second thoughts, spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said.
"The governor feels he has the right experience to lead this very difficult agency," she said.
DCFS spokeswoman Karen Hawkins called it "inappropriate to raise decades-old issues that have long been resolved and have nothing to do with his performance as director."
Hawkins said Monday that Bishop would not be speaking about the matter to the news media.
DCFS acknowledged in December that it had undercounted the number of child-abuse and neglect deaths following reports by the Sun-Times and WBEZ. It's also been criticized for its money management. The attorney general sued businessman George Smith in December to recover millions of dollars of state grant money allegedly misspent by Smith, a friend of former DCFS director Erwin McEwen.
Bishop had been a substance-abuse counselor at the Wright center. According to a September 1993 arrest report, he received $9,262 from patients over 14 months and failed to turn over that money to the center.
Former Wright center director Lucy Lang-Chappell said Bishop created a "bogus" program for convicted drunken drivers and in exchange for money, gave the patients forms they believed would allow them to drive again. She said the center was not licensed for that work at the time. An insurance policy covered reimbursements of the money to patients.
At a 1994 court hearing, a lawyer said Bishop had given the money to the center, which Chappell denies.
Like the DCFS post, which pays $150,000, Bishop needed state Senate consent for his appointment in 2010 to the Juvenile Justice Department. He gave a written statement to the Senate at the time, claiming he was wrongly accused.
Bishop said he'd had a verbal disagreement with Chappell over policy and walked out of her office, then later learned she alleged he stole funds.
He said he made an "agonizing" decision to plead guilty to the misdemeanor to end the strain on his family.