County Treasurer Sits At $23,000 Office Set, Hired $95,000 Party Planners

Send Your Tips To Pam Zekman

CHICAGO (CBS) — A waste of taxpayers’ money.

That’s how former employees are describing jobs and office activities in the Cook Country Treasurer’s Office. 2 Investigator Pam Zekman and the Better Government Association continue their investigation into how Treasurer Maria Pappas spends your tax dollars.

Pappas once ran her office from a beautiful desk and credenza in her private office. But they were replaced with custom-ordered furniture costing $23,034.

The furniture was part of a much larger redecorating job overseen by high-end interior designer John P. Regas. He was paid an additional $27,000 for his interior design work throughout the treasurer’s office.

2 Investigators/BGA

(Credit: CBS/BGA)

Pappas declined to show off the replacement furniture in her office. Regas did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.

The furniture expense is the latest questionable use of taxpayer funds in the treasurer’s office.

CBS2 and the Better Government Association previously disclosed that Pappas hired Teresa Kawa, her personal cleaning lady, to also clean her office. Kawa was budgeted as a $57,347-a-year administrative analyst.

Also, Emmanuel Hatzisavas, who is budgeted as a $94,000 project leader for the treasurer, worked as her driver. One day, he spent hours waiting for her to finish a yoga class at the East Bank Club. Pappas says she felt safer having him drive her around.

Also raising question were regular events Pappas hosted as part of the Treasurer’s Outreach Program, or TOPS. The parties celebrated various ethnic holidays and events and featured awards presentations, entertainment and food.

Since a report on those activities aired, many former employees have contacted CBS 2 saying they were pressured to work the parties on county time.

“The parties were really campaign events to get herself known in the ethnic communities around Chicago,” one ex-worker said.

They were assigned to greet and register guests, taking down their names and contact information. Some were assigned to take photographs of guests with Pappas, which Pappas would later autograph and send to them. Still others would be forced  to serve drinks or food.

Pappas denied the allegations.

“Nobody is forced to do anything,” she said.

The parties were planned by Hazel Barr, listed on the Treasurer’s budget as an assistant county treasurer earning $95,382, and Patricia Michalski, identified as chief of government and community affairs and earning more than $96,374.

“There was a waste of tax dollars to do an excessive amount of entertaining for an office that’s involved in taxes,” said Andy Shaw, executive director of the Better Government Association.

Pappas defiantly said she would not be influenced by media attention.

“Channel 2 or the Better Government Association are not going to tell me how to run my office,” she told Zekman.

But Pappas has terminated Barr and Michalski and the office’s outreach program, saying “budgetary pressures compel it.”

Pappas credited the TOPS program with helping her office put information in 22 languages on its website on how to pay property taxes.

Pappas also said Kawa would no longer do housework at her home, for which Pappas paid her $4,500 a year, to “avoid the appearance of impropriety.” Kawa will continue to work cleaning the treasurer’s offices.

Hatzisavas, the treasurer said, will no longer drive for her. Now he will work as a supervisor in her office assigned to duties commensurate with his pay.

The joint reports between CBS 2 and BGA have exposed $343,181 in questionable salaries within the treasurer’s officer.

Pappas says she’ll pay for an independent auditor to make sure employee job titles fit the work they do. Praising that move is the county board president, who urged other department heads to do the same.

Click here to visit the BGA’s website.

More from 2 Investigators
  • Inez Ringland

    Why are we hearing about this mis-use of our money now? It might have done some good before the recent election. Investigative news such as this falls under the category too little toolate.

    • Rhonda Durlanich

      Better late then never. How dare maria pappas be so pompas and think she doesnt have to answer to anybody. I do wish I would have known about this before I voted for her. She will not be voted back in. We the people have had it!! I hope this investigation does not end She needs to go.

      • Joe

        I think that she will be voted back. Nothing in this report screams out as being that bad. So she likes a clean office, has a driver and throws “ethnic” parties in her office. So what? Did she pocket money? Is she taking the desk home with her? If the desk stays long after she is gone, I really don’t care that it was expensive. You have to think that others in Cook County are doing worse things.

    • chuck sebastian

      this is the perfect example why we should impose a recall for all elected officials

  • Prosecute Pappas in Court!

    Treasurer Pappas should be charged with THEFT and REMOVED from office for using public funds to shamelessly promote herself. This woman has become so demented that she truly believes herself to be some kind of ambassador to the taxpayers of Cook County when no one asked her to be one (and if we had a chance we definitely would have chosen one that wasn’t so hideous to look at). YOU COLLECT PROPERTY TAXES PAPPAS, STICK TO WHAT YOUR OWN JOB DESCRIPTION IS…OH WAIT YOUR OFFICE DOESN’T ADHERE TO JOB DESCRIPTIONS WHICH IS WHY YOUR 93K A YEAR DRIVER IS LISTED AS A “PROJECT LEADER.”

  • Don Zlabinger

    I am done paying taxes in Cook county and if they want to come look for me they can go to Pappas for my share. We have such a debt and this is where she spends our money, 50,000 for a janitor, 90,000 for a driver. This is happening way too much in Cook county and I will not send my money to anyone any more so they can party with it. My money is important to me as it is to everyone else but you don’t see Pappas paying out of her pocket. Throw her in prison and sell everything she owns to pay back all the tax payers for her partying.

    • Tammy

      Unfortunately the sad reality is those who misappropriate funds are never held accountable to pay anything back…they might sit in “prison” (as I use the term loosly-because I’m sure they are not in GP) yet they still get to collect their pensions – they worked for the government – (best money can buy). The list grows everyday for misused funds…maybe she took lessons from Stroger?

      Why do you think Quinn raised taxes? You can’t expect to dig Illinois out of the mountain of debt and at the same time raise government spending. Sadly, the only “job growth” is in the government sector. Yet we, the taxpayers, are milked for everything we have including the shirts off our back just so “our government” can live/breathe/work in the “lap of luxury”. Its good to be king!

  • tom sharp

    Example #2,367 justifying “Term Limits of One”!! where are Lisa Madigan, the “ombundsman,” and other “paid watchdogs”?

    Great job on the story. keep up the great work.

  • Margaret Seam

    Why can’t Maria Pappas be charged with theft? She is stealing from the county. Our taxes keep going up, yet people in government keep wasting our money. We need to put a stop to this and should not just rely on the news and the BGA to report it. We all need to get more involved.

  • Bob

    Lisa Madigan was put into office to end the investigations against her father. She’s not going to investigate fellow crooked democrats. Papas said she’s going to do an internal audit. Does that mean after getting caught with her hand in the cookie jar she’s cleared of any crooked dealings by doing a self audit? Just like when Mosley Braun got caught with the medicaid scam for 56k, she just gave the money back. Wouldn’t every crook that gets caught like to just give what they stole back instead of going to jail. Why can politicians always just give things back and everything is forgotten?

  • jimbo

    Who approved her budget? Think about the county board and as far as channel 2 and Pam Zeckman as well as the BGA, keep going and check out the rest of the county departments.

  • Debra

    I just opened up my property tax bill…nice!….NOT!!! I know it has been said before but maybe if a closer look was taken at government theft, I mean “spending”, on a regular basis we would not have such a budget deficit resulting in a rise in our income, sales and property taxes!!! None of those employees mentioned do not warrant any of those salaries, even under those “pseudo-titles”. As public servants they should be ashamed of themselves esp. when so many people can’t even afford a roof over their heads – many whom have lost their homes because they could no longer afford their taxes. I hear alot of “back pedaling” from Pappas. I hope that the D.A. will now do their job and prosecute the offenders of this mismanagement of taxpayer monies !!!!

  • Freddy

    Hang them all from the highest tree.

  • Freddy

    Where does she live. Maybe we should go over there tomorrow and protest? Does anyone have her cell phone number?

  • Kelly

    The day she took office in Dec 1998 I was terminated citing the “basic provisions of the Shakman Decree” missing 11 years of service by 1 day. She knew I wouldn’t dance to her tune. Found out from ex co-workers she installed cameras and tapped phones. I knew it was only a matter of time. Her famous belief is that she doesn’t need that job……she’s independently wealthy. Thank you Pam!!

  • Nancy A. Fallen

    “MAFIA Pappas needs to go!”. She’s a crooked politician wasting our tax dollars and abusing the privileges in office. She has confessed to breaking the law and expresses no remorse for her attitude or actions. Pappas should be prosecuted. Period.

  • T'Chaka T. A.Abdiraxman-Issa

    Investigate who approves her budget!!! The unemployment rate is 11.1% in illinois, and I’m one of them! This devil is stealing our tax dollars and getting away with it!!! Please through other politicians under the bus!!! Where is the Mayor in this?!? Lisa Madigan?!? Expose all of them!!! Show no mercy!!! Stop waiting until an election!!!

  • T'Chaka T. A.Abdiraxman-Issa

    Investigate who approves her budget!!! The unemployment rate is 11.1% in Illinois, and I’m one of them! This devil is stealing our tax dollars and getting away with it!!! Please through other politicians under the bus!!! Where is the Mayor in this?!? Lisa Madigan?!? Expose all of them!!! Show no mercy!!! Stop waiting until an election!!!

    Chicago is as crooked as it gets!!!

  • T'Chaka T. A. Abdiraxman-Issa

    I’m with Freddy. Let’s protest at her house.

  • Gus

    I just got a tax bill for $52,000 and ding dong is just blowing that $$, Prosecure please!!

  • Mark

    Pam and the BGA should get a list of all of the positions and salaries. Most of the employees do not have the educational skills that are needed to preform the job position title that they are given. The job classifications do not match the work that the employees actually do.

    The banks that do business with her office should also be looked at. How did these banks get the counties business?

    Is Pappas above the law? She also brings her dog to work. People with animal allergies can get sick if exposed to the dog.

  • Priceless

    I use to work for her and I thought the parties were pretty cool..I helped serve food and drinks but we still got our jobs done..I’m kind of mad I resigned..I could have been making good money now…wonder if they have room in the budget for an ex-employee who scored the highest score on a test of the knowledge and workings of the Treasures’s office..I’m unemployed and would love my job back!!!! Pretty please!!!!

    • Nicole V

      Dear CCTO Employee,

      I know you enjoyed writing this comment and clearly I understand this is a poke at me, but I ask you this, what did I ever do wrong to you, or to the CCTO? Everyone in your office knows that I worked extremely hard, came in early, left late, and was kind to everyone. Yes, I was let go due to “budget cuts” but what you do not know is that the Treasurer actually put me on the chopping block because of a personal feud she was having with a family member of mine (and by that I mean she did not get her way and we all know what happens when she doesn’t….just like the movie Gremlins). Furthermore, after leaving the Treasurer’s Office I have felt the true happiness and fulfillment that comes from helping the people in my community and spending time with my loved ones. Thankfully I am lucky enough not to worry about the “good money” I “could have been making”, but then again life is shaped by karma and if you know me you know that everything I have I deserve and I always pay it forward.

      I simply ask you this, look at your values and the way that you spend your time every day at work. Does the person you slave for truly appreciate you? Does she care for you as a person or just another one of her minions? Does she hesitate to berate you or humiliate you to get her way? Next time you want to go after someone who gave nothing but 150% and was nothing but a nice person to everyone she met, ask yourself if your top boss was worth the loss of your own values.

      I hope that one day you leave the CCTO and can see what its like to work hard AND receive recognition for it. There is a whole world out here of businesses and organizations that operate ethically and truly value their employees, and I hope one day you are able to enjoy it.

      • Kelly Y.

        Don’t take it personal. Probably just someone venting their frustration because they are still working there and don’t have any other choice. By the looks of it I’m pretty fortunate that I was gone after day 1. Good luck to you

  • JeanSC

    This bugs the heck out of me especially not just because of the waste of tax money, but because I’m in need of a job and do have proven talent in interior design/decoration. While I do surely appreciate the quality of Stickley furniture, I can also aim a lot lower when the money has to be kept tight. I could have done a fine job for Pappas at a lot cheaper price. Still can.

  • Peter S

    Pappas is the only Cook County officer that has cut, yes cut, her budget every year. Why not investigate the real story, like what did the County do the millions, yes millions she saved? Did the county pass those savings through to the taxpayers? No, the county just spent the money elsewhere. And you guys are worried about her decorating? Oh please. The Treasurer’s office was a disaster before she took it over and look at it now. It’s clean, its efficient, you can pay your taxes at a bank. The list of what she has done goes on and on. Sure, CBS is making her look bad, but if all the leaders in county government cut and automate and save money like she has, they can each have a new desk. If you think Maria Pappas is the problem, then you are sorely mistaken.

  • BOB G.


  • Peter S

    Pappas has made everyone at the County Board look bad every year — she’s the only one who cuts her budget. The rest of them just spend and then talk about doomsday scenarios when they run out of money.

    Ok, Ms. Zeckman has something to talk about and may even run Pappas out of office. But then what? Zeckman can put another head on her wall. Good for her. And the same for Andy Shaw. And the taxpayers of Cook County will no longer have a treasurer who cuts the budget every year.

    Mrs. Pappas problem is that she has an abrasive personality and that’s why no one is standing by her now. I’ll take more Pappases any day.

    Making Pappas look like a spendthrift without telling the whole story is disingenuous.


    Another “I am above the Law” crook county thief, the gull of her to sit in a $23,000 chair and office furnature, this old sea hag should be sitting on milk crates….NOW?!….Where is LISA< ANITNA< AND THE FEDS…to come on this old fossiel so hard. but she'll get "bigJim" as a lawyer and guess what?..?…her hubby is dieing and she cannot do the time! Call the Feds and write to demand the state of IL. and the corruption going on here, notice how no one is cutting her buget?! why not take all the money from this old hag so she cannot spend it!

  • woolfie

    Pappas credited the TOPS program with helping her office put information in 22 languages on its website on how to pay property taxes.
    22 Languages??????? WHY??????? Your in AMERICA!!!! Learn English!!!!



blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live