Updated: 10/5/10 9:27 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Bond was set at $250,000 Tuesday morning for a top aide to Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, who is charged in connection with a series of no-bid public relations contracts she allegedly steered to her privately-owned firm as well as to a number of pals.
Carla Oglesby, Stroger’s deputy chief of staff, was taken into custody about 4 p.m. by members of the Cook County state’s attorney’s financial crimes unit, Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez confirmed.
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On Tuesday morning, Oglesby walked in handcuffs out of the Harrison Area Police Station lockup, 3151 W. Harrison St. She entered a waiting police wagon and headed to court at the Cook County Criminal Courthouse.
At the hearing, her bond was set at $250,000. CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports Oglesby’s parents were present.
Oglesby is charged with money laundering, official misconduct, and theft of government services.
Daly said her arrest came as part of an investigation into more than 10 no-bid contracts.
Oglesby was pulling out of a Loop garage when investigators stopped her vehicle and arrested her on a warrant issued in connection with the investigation, Daly said.
Oglesby’s attorney, Tony Schumann, said “she was stunned” by her arrest. “Obviously, you know, she is very distraught about that.”
She spent the night locked up, facing charges that she bilked county taxpayers out of more than $250,000.
The charges stem from allegations that she steered hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of business to her own public relations firm, and to affiliated companies that did little to no work. The contracts were no-bid deals, and much of the money was paid out up front.
“We have not been able to prove that there’s been any work that’s been performed on those contracts,” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said Tuesday afternoon.
The series of contracts were awarded in amounts just under $25,000, the threshold that calls for Cook County commissioners to approve the expenditure.
There was one big question still looming on Tuesday: what role, if any, did Todd Stroger have in steering those contracts to Oglesby and her friends.
“I can’t comment specifically; only to the point of the checks have his name, but that’s a computer-generated stamp,” Alvarez said.
Stroger released a statement Tuesday in response to Oglesby’s arrest, in which he promised he would “fully cooperate with the State’s Attorney’s office during their investigation.” He also said the issuance of contracts under $25,000 is not an unusual “as being heavily reported by the press,” but that the probe of Oglesby indicated “a breakdown in the process.”
Stroger added that Cook County Independent Inspector General had also been investigating Oglesby’s conduct.
Alvarez said Oglesby’s arrest came as part of an investigation into more than 10 no-bid contracts. She spent 10 months at Stroger’s side and, as it turns out, she was under investigation for six of them.
“The investigation started, really, with inside information,” Alvarez said. “The information we gathered was that this money was obviously being used not only to pay some of her business expenses, but also some of her personal expenses as well.”
Alvarez said the investigation isn’t over. That was clear on Tuedsay outside the Cook County Board meeting.
County communications employee Christine Geovanis said that she was subpoenaed on Monday.
Geovanis told CBS 2’s Jim Williams that, over time, she realized the county was paying outside companies like CGC Communications for PR work she’d already done.
“Some work that was being credited to some of these … contractors was, in fact, content that I’d produced … as a public employee on the company dime on the public’s time,” Geovanis said.
Schumann said his client is ready for a fight.
“All I can tell you is there is a lot more to this case than meets the eye,” he said.
Oglesby remains in jail Tuesday night. Published reports say her aunt and uncle had until 3 p.m. to post their excavation and wreckage company to help their niece, but they didn’t show up by the deadline. After that, Oglesby requested that she be placed in protective custody while she is in jail.
That means she will be housed in a cell alone and she will remain in that cell for 23 hours a day. That cell consists of a cot, toilet and sink. She is allowed out for one hour a day, by herself, when she can shower, make phone calls or walk in the recreation area.
Oglesby worked briefly as a spokeswoman for Stroger’s re-election bid, a re-election effort that ended when Stroger lost in the February 2 primary.
He hired her weeks after the election as his $120,000-a-year deputy chief of staff.
Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer (D-10th) said the Oglesby arrest is likely to be just the beginning of the scandal.
“I think the investigation is a obviously lot larger than Ms. Oglesby and I think we’ll start to hear more in the couple of days and if resignations are required they absolutely should be offered,” Gainer said.
Commissioner Tony Peraica (R-16th) sat down Monday with CBS 2’s Mike Parker and lashed out at what he described as a culture of corruption.
“It’s illegal, it’s inappropriate, and finally today, some action was taken by the State’s Attorney’s office,” Peraica said. “She has now begun to hold individuals accountable for these financial misdeeds that have been going on for years.”
Peraica argues that Stroger bears some responsibility for allowing it to happen and should also be investigated.
“Todd Stroger has criminal culpability here, and he’s going to have to answer to the taxpayers and to the State’s Attorney’s for conduct that has gone on under his watch,” Peraica said.
In May, Oglesby acknowledged to the Chicago Sun-Times that she signed off on one of the public relations contracts for her own firm — CGC Communications. She also acknowledged that she fast-tracked the $24,975 payment to her firm.
But she said she made a subtle distinction about signing the paperwork for — and steering the contract to — her firm.
“I didn’t steer a contract” to the firm, Oglesby said in a May interview with the Sun-Times. “Ultimately I don’t make a decision about what agencies and firms get contracts.”
If Oglesby is convicted, she could face 6 to 30 years in prison.
CBS 2’s Mike Parker, Mike Puccinelli and Dana Kozlov, and Sun-Times Media Wire, contributed to this report.