Cook County’s inspector general – county government’s in-house watchdog – released a report on Valentine’s Day on the Forest Preserve District, but it wasn’t a love note.

The IG raised some potentially serious issues about how the forest preserves are managed – and of particular interest to us were findings about taxpayer-funded credit cards. One passage:

“During our Site Inspections, we discovered that the FPD has issued credit cards to various management level employees to be utilized for FPD purposes. We obtained information that revealed that many credit card transactions lacked adequate documentation to clearly demonstrate the FPD purpose for the transactions. Additionally, we identified credit card purchases that appeared to be for restricted items that required prior written approval from the [chief financial officer]; however, there was no such written documentation establishing that approval was granted for many of the transactions. Certain other transactions appeared to be for items not permitted under the FPD credit card policy.”

In other words, sounds like taxpayer dollars are being guarded over there with the usual lax attitude common with county bureaucracies.

The forest preserve district does some good stuff – its nature centers, for instance, are well regarded and there are some true believers working there.

But there also are mindless political hacks at the agency looking for an easy job and pension. We know this because we’ve done our share of research about the forest preserves over the years.

Regardless, here are a few stories we’ve done in recent years that are about or relate to the forest preserves:

Do Forest Preserves Need a Separate Police Force?

Tax Hike Supporters Land County Jobs

Workers give to Stroger’s campaign, get big raises

Living the American Dream — on the Taxpayers’ Dime

Anyway, the IG report is worth a read.

Click here to access the document, which makes clear the forest preserve district remains in need of some tough love.

This blog entry was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Robert Herguth, who can be reached at or (312) 821-9030.