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Illinois catches contractor with $18 million that was supposed to go to kids

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.


The good news is Illinois state investigators caught him. The bad news is that over about three years, George E. Smith appears to have sidetracked a handsome portion of $18 million in state grants to somewhere other than to the kids who were supposed to be helped.

Associated Press reporter Christopher Wills broke the story yesterday and the Springfield State Journal-Register imbedded the 200-page or so report. Reading it will make a reasonable person queasy. Pages and pages of “founded” allegations of misappropriation of funds, inappropriate expenses (prime choice alcohol and pro sports tickets among them), forgeries, “ghost” employees, double billing, and the list continues.

Smith’s got pals in this mess and they’re named, too, including the former director of the Department of Children and Family Services, Erwin McEwen, who announced in August he was leaving the end of September. No reason given at the time though perhaps now we know why. McEwen is likely parsing what he really meant to say when he described Smith as his “personal friend and mentor.”

The state investigators have a litany of recommendations that start with get the money back, discipline the perpetrators and file criminal charges while you’re at it. I think the lot of them should wear “I stole from children” signs for the rest of their lives.

They stole preciously scarce dollars from the least among us. What could possibly justify such gaming of the system?

May there be a special place in hell for people with holes in their souls.

(You can read more at these links: Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times.


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