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Deputy fire chief to stay on paid leave

Charles Sopko Oak Forest | Cook County Sheriff's Office

Charles Sopko, of Oak Forest | Cook County Sheriff's Office

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Updated: February 17, 2014 8:11AM



Oak Forest Deputy Fire Chief Charles Sopko won’t be returning to work any time soon.

Sopko has been on paid administrative leave since he and his wife were arrested Dec. 18 and charged with felony theft of government property for allegedly embezzling about $352,000 from the Palos Heights Fire Protection District over a 30-month period.

Michelle Sopko, formerly a part-time bookkeeper/administrative assistant with the fire protection district, allegedly manipulated payroll and accounts payable systems to divert the district funds into the couple’s bank account, according to prosecutors.

City administrator Troy Ishler said Charles Sopko will remain suspended with pay until the city reviews the evidence in the criminal case against him. The city will likely assign an attorney to review records and interview people in its investigation before officials make any decision about his job, he said.

Ishler also said the city plans to investigate its finances to “make sure no stone is unturned” as far as any potential impropriety involving the couple.

“There are minor things we are looking into, but nothing glaring at this time,” he said.

Sopko also is vice president of the Oak Forest Park District Board and co-founder of the Oak Forest Fury lacrosse team, a park district program. Michelle Sopko is a member of the Arbor Park School District 145 Board.

The couple, well known because of their public positions and community involvement, are out on bond and next are due in court Feb. 7.



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