I-Team

Report: Former DCFS chief gave deals to friend

Monday, October 17, 2011

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich hasn't even been sentenced yet and already a new state corruption case is brewing. New allegations of sweetheart deals and do-nothing contracts, many of them through the Department of Children and Family Services, have emerged.

The scandal involves one of Gov. Pat Quinn's holdover appointees from the Blagojevich administration, DCFS Director Erwin McEwen, who mysteriously left state government last month. According to the Illinois Inspector General, McEwen was siphoning millions in state grant money to one of his close friends.

The investigation looked at McEwens tight connections with George E. Smith, who ran several mental health and social service businesses in Chicago.

According to a lengthy report prepared by the state executive inspector general, Smith received a grant bonanza between 2008 and 2011, more than $18 million from several government agencies, primarily DCFS.

The investigation found that Smith forged a 100 signatures to cover up misspending, had excessive expenses including $100,000 in Chicago sports tickets and kept do-nothing ghost payrollers on the books to steal state funds. That was accomplished because McEwen allowed his friend to get away with it, according to state investigators.

McEwen's Facebook page still lists him as employed by the state but he no longer works for Illinois.

Even though Gov. Quinn knew about the scathing misconduct report last month, he would not explain Monday afternoon why he didn't fire McEwen and instead let him resign.

"He did resign," Quinn said. "He was told he had his options and he chose to resign and he is now no longer the director. He was given the opportunity to resign and he took that opportunity."

The governor is being urged by his inspector general to pursue disciplinary action against McEwen and four other DCFS officials. Civil and criminal prosecution against Smith is being urged by the state inspector general.

Neither McEwen nor Smith responded to messages left for comment and investigators say they did not cooperate with the state.

Smith is facing some additional problems. He calls himself a medical doctor and practices as one but according to state authorities isn't an MD, a psychiatrist or a psychologist. There are several officials at Chicago State University also implicated in the scandal for allegedly sending through Smith's contracts with no oversight.

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