|Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch|
In 2011, a Better Government Association/WGN-TV investigation raised serious questions about how Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch was using taxpayer-funded credit cards.
Then in 2012, the south suburb’s newly elected treasurer, Rhonda Williams, said she couldn’t trace millions of dollars because Welch wouldn’t show her the books.
This week it became clear the financial picture in the mostly black middle-class community remains rather hazy.
First off, Country Club Hills officials were in court as Cook County government tries to recoup $6.5 million mistakenly sent to – and spent by – the municipality.
City officials said they’ve paid back roughly a third of the total and are looking for a payment plan to chip away at the balance.
|Country Club Hills Treasurer Rhonda Williams|
But perhaps more troubling are the preliminary results of an on-going audit of Country Club Hills finances. The BGA and WGN obtained a summary of the financial review, which found that, rather than 17 city bank accounts, there were 30 or so, many not known to the treasurer or the city council.
The audit also raised questions about the mayor’s charity fund, which gives scholarships to students. Not only was the fund apparently run out of City Hall, at least some of the money was awarded to the children of city employees and vendors, according to the audit summary.
“What’s key about that account was that it was set up under the city’s tax ID number,” Williams said. “It’s a city account and that’s something we have to deal with through forensic review.”
If you don’t see the video above, click here and watch it on WGNTV.com.
Welch wouldn’t talk to WGN or the BGA.
The audit is continuing, with another $100,000 or more in city funds dedicated to getting a handle on city finances under Welch’s leadership.
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office has been notified of at least some of the financial irregularities in town, but it’s unclear whether prosecutors are taking a hard look.
This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Robert Herguth, and Mark Suppelsa and Marsha Bartel of WGN. To reach them, call (312) 821-9030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.