Robert Healy / BGA photo
During more than 20 years as top administrator at the Lyons Township School Treasurer’s office, Robert Healy allegedly embezzled roughly $1.5 million from the tiny but deep-pocketed government agency, which helps fund public schools in the west suburbs and, at any given time, controls several hundred million dollars in taxpayer money.
On Wednesday, the 56-year-old Healy – whose family has long-standing ties to ex-Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Morgan Finley, imprisoned in the late 1980s for a bribery case – pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge and agreed to a nine-year prison term.
Healy, 56, wouldn’t comment to a reporter before Wednesday’s hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building at 26th and California.
After pleading guilty in front of Cook County Judge Arthur Hill Jr., Healy was immediately taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies. His prison assignment isn’t yet clear.
Thus ended a long saga for the school treasurer’s office, an agency that until the Healy scandal had garnered so little attention that its public meetings usually drew nobody from the public.
The scandal, which erupted in 2012, not only brought more scrutiny to the Lyons Township School Treasurer’s office, it cast a spotlight on this little-known form of government, which has been abolished in some areas because it’s seen as unnecessary.
In Lyons Township, the school treasurer takes in tax money, invests it and distributes it to public school districts. The office also handles bookkeeping functions for school systems.
For more than two decades, Healy was the treasurer – the top administrator reporting to a three-member elected board of trustees.
Healy was accused of quietly stealing for much of the time, mostly through unauthorized wire transfers.
Law enforcement got involved and the scheme began to unravel after Marty Brown – then a board member of Western Springs Elementary District 101 – began asking about school treasurer finances.
The Better Government Association also got involved and discovered:
- Some fees paid by the school treasurer’s office to financial advisors were apparently higher than market rate.
- Taxpayer money controlled by the school treasurer’s office was put into investments that may have violated state law.
- School treasurer’s office records were so shoddy that the total financial picture was unclear, with no written budget.
- Healy and the board had little financial expertise but lots of political connections.
The board at the time included Ed Maloney (who resigned to run successfully for Cook County judge); Theron Tobolski (brother of Cook County Commissioner and McCook Mayor Jeff Tobolski); and Karen Civinelli (political ally of state Sen. and Bridgeview Mayor Steve Landek.)
Brown called the school treasurer board “totally asleep at the wheel,” for money was being stolen under its nose.
Theron Tobolski countered, “I don’t think that’s fair at all,” and added about Healy’s prison sentence, “We’re glad to see Bob got what he deserved.”
It remains unclear what Healy might have done with the money he’s accused of taking, though he appeared to be a big spender. Healy’s home contained “a lot of shoes,” one official said, and he was fond of monogrammed shirts.
The school treasurer’s office recouped roughly $1 million through insurance, and officials acknowledge it’s unlikely they will ever receive full restitution from Healy.
This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Robert Herguth and Patrick Rehkamp, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (312) 821-9030.
Previous BGA coverage of the Lyons Township School Treasurer’s office:
Trying Times In Lyons Township Nov. 3, 2014
Not All Government Consolidations Work Oct. 12, 2013
How A $200 Million Township School Treasurer’s Office Stuck It To Taxpayers Sept. 1, 2013
Ex-School Official Faces Detention Aug. 19, 2013
Battle Lines Forming in Lyons School Dispute May 6, 2013
Lyon Township’s Blast From Corruption’s Past Nov. 10, 2012
Big Changes Are Needed At Little-Known Agency Nov. 1, 2012
School Districts, Residents Bear Some Responsibility for Lyons Township Troubles Oct. 10, 2012
Schoolhouse Rocked Sept. 21, 2012