SAUK VILLAGE - A Cook County Board task force has turned over to the
state's attorney's office its probe of the village's handling of a program to
refurbish single-family homes.
But whether the state's attorney's office is looking into any possible
criminal misdeeds connected to the village's administration of its Community
Development Block Grant program is unclear.
Andrea Brands, spokeswoman for the Cook County Board of Commissioners, said
the state's attorney's office was brought in to assist the county in its own
investigation. "We sent it over to them, so that we would have a complete and
thorough review," she said.
Cook County is "working in conjunction with the state's attorney's office,"
she said. Although Cook County is still involved, the "primary investigation
lies" now with the state's attorney's office, she said.
Tim Touhy, a spokesman for the state's attorney's office, would not confirm
nor deny that his office was investigating the Sauk Village program.
Village Attorney Louis Vitullo acknowledged that the state's attorney's
office had been called in to assist the county, but contended that the review
has already been completed.
Brands, however, said the state's attorney's office is "still assisting us
with the review."
Vitullo further asserted that the state's attorney's office was "not doing
any investigation of any criminal impropriety, because there was no
In December, the county froze the release of block grant money to the
village after determining that it lacked "the capacity to operate" the program.
The action put on hold about $197,000 in grant money awarded to the village
in 1993 for single-family home renovation work. The money is designed to help
homeowners make necessary repairs they otherwise would be unable to afford.
The county receives block grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development and distributes the money to communities for various
redevelopment and rehabilitation projects.
In suspending funds to Sauk Village, the county cited unnecessary delays on
projects, sloppy record-keeping by the village and numerous homeowners'
complaints of shoddy workmanship by contractors.
In addition, the village was ordered to return all grant money still in its
possession and to keep all files and documents relating to the program dating
back to 1991.
One affected homeowner said the county has put a lien on her home to try to
recoup a $58,000 loan she received through the block grant program. Pat O'Brien
contended that the county put the lien on her home because the contractor
selected by the village to work on her home was not bonded.
O'Brien said the county also has hired its own contractor to fix problems
with her house that the contractor hired by the village failed to repair.
"It's been a total nightmare," O'Brien said.
"I wish to God I'd never heard of the CDBG program," she added. "If you want
your life destroyed, just get entangled with (Sauk Village) and Cook County."