CHICAGO (CBS)—The Chairman of the Lake County Board is suspected of spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on personal expenses during the past year.
Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor allegedly abused a small government system based largely on trust, reports CBS’s political reporter Derrick Blakley.
Expense reports obtained by CBS 2 reveal Lawlor used a credit card issued by the county to charge out-of-state travel, downtown hotel stays, meals and Ubers.
In an apparent futile attempt to cover his tracks, Lawlor’s handwriting is scribbled across some of those reports with comments like one from July 2017 that said, “I since reimbursed the county for all expenses incorrectly charged,” and “I put in safeguards to ensure it will not happen again.”
Another handwritten not from January 2018 reads, “I may have exceeded meal allowances. It could be misconstrued as a personal charge.”
Lawlor may have taken advantage of unusually-relaxed accounting oversight at the Lake County Board, Blakley reports.
Procurement cards issued to board members allow officials to charge up to $7,000 of expenses per year. And while Lawlor signed off on other board members’ expenses, there was no check and balance system for his own spending.
Lake County Board member Sandy Hart admitted the county lacked a reliable accounting system to track personal spending allowances.
“(For) the Lake County Board Chairman, there was no oversight,” Hart said.
And while board members have been required to submit copies of their receipts for purchases made with the procurement cards, reasons for the purchases were never checked, Blakley reports.
“If you give a receipt and say, ‘I spent this on county board business,’ then so long as it matches, then it gets approved,” said Lake County Board member Sidney Mathias.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the state’s attorney have jointly retained a third-party investigator to examine the allegations of misspending.
In the meantime, the Lake County Board is expected to examine the county’s procurement card policies.
Lawlor has since dropped his bid for reelection, citing a decision to undergo treatment for drug addiction.