A politically connected school finance official from the western suburbs has been charged with two felonies for allegedly embezzling more than $1.5 million from his taxpayer-funded agency over the past two decades.
The charges, announced last week, follow an in-depth investigation by the Better Government Association and CBS2 last year that found a series of alarming financial practices at the public agency, the Lyons Township School Treasurer’s office, under then-leader Robert Healy.
The agency is little-known but hugely important because it invests and manages more than $200 million in tax money for a dozen or so public school districts in the west suburbs, including La Grange, Western Springs and Willow Springs.
As part of a months-long investigation, the BGA and CBS2 found that Healy:
- Hired investment advisers that in turn donated money to a campaign fund he controlled.
- Permitted investments that may have violated state law.
- Had no discernible financial expertise but deep political connections.
- Operated with little oversight from his agency’s elected board or the school districts his agency was serving.
- Ran his agency with no annual budget to guide spending.
In recently filed court papers related to Healy’s criminal charges – theft of governmental property, and official misconduct – prosecutors stated:
“Starting in fiscal year 1989-1990, and continuing through April 20, 2012, Defendant added unauthorized compensation to his bi-monthly paychecks, or otherwise issued himself additional salary and benefits totaling $630,346.78. Additionally, Defendant made 105 unauthorized wire transfers out of the Lyons Township Schools’ account at Amalgamated Bank in to his personal bank account at Northern Trust Bank from February 26, 2002 through April 21, 2011, totaling $900,853.32. Also Defendant made an unauthorized wire transfer on July 11, 2011 in the amount of $7,547.51 to Infiniti of Orland Park toward the down payment on a lease of his personal vehicle, a 2012 Infiniti M37X. The total of the 106 unauthorized wire transfers = $908,400.83. The total of all unauthorized payments (by check and by wire) to Defendant or on his behalf = $1,538,747.61 . . .”
A prosecutor also wrote that “the prospect of the victim school districts ever recouping said monies from Defendant is negligible.”
Healy, 54, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. He’s expected back in court next month.
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He could not be reached for comment.
The BGA previously reported Healy has longstanding ties to aging political powerbroker Morgan Finley, an 11th Ward stalwart who later served as Democratic committeeman in Lyons Township and the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk – until a corruption conviction ended his career more than 20 years ago.
Finley helped get Healy hired into the treasurer’s job back in the late 1980s, according to inside sources.
The BGA released a statement on Healy’s arrest last week, noting there’s blame to go around for this situation getting so far out of hand.
“The BGA is pleased that prosecutors took this case seriously, and rooted out alleged misconduct within the Lyons Township School Treasurer’s Office. Even though small, the treasurer’s office is a hugely important agency that handles many millions of dollars destined for the education of public school children. The BGA has said before that, aside from any alleged improprieties by now-former treasurer Robert Healy, this case was disturbing because the board that was elected to oversee Healy was clearly asleep at the switch – as were most of the school districts that should have been keeping a better eye on their money. There’s plenty of blame to go around.”
“We look forward to seeing how this criminal matter progresses through the court system, and to suburban school officials learning a valuable lesson about financial responsibility.”
The school treasurer’s office has instituted a number of reforms since Healy resigned under fire last year. But the agency ignored certain recommendations from the BGA, including that two board members resign for failing to keep better tabs on Healy.
This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Robert Herguth, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (312) 821-9030.