Harvey park commissioner wants district boss suspended
By Casey toner firstname.lastname@example.org February 18, 2014 10:14PM
Updated: March 20, 2014 6:49AM
A Harvey Park District commissioner wants the district’s top administrator to step aside while awaiting trial for allegedly stealing more than $112,000 in public funds while working for the Cook County assessor’s office.
Commissioner Anthony McCaskill said he plans to ask the park board at its meeting Thursday evening to suspend with pay the district’s executive director, Dionne Cooper.
“Where in America can a person be indicted and charged and still be overseeing the taxpayers’ money?” McCaskill said.
While a clerk in the assessor’s office, Cooper conspired with another person to embezzle the money between October 2009 and April 2012, according to prosecutors.
They said she processed and submitted 100 fraudulent applications for property tax refunds that were given to her by her accomplice. The checks were mailed by the county treasurer’s office to Cooper’s partner, and the two eventually split the $112,342 that was stolen, prosecutors said.
The alleged accomplice has not been charged, and it could not be determined Tuesday why that’s the case. No trial date has been set for Cooper.
Cooper, 43, of Hazel Crest, left the assessor’s office in May 2012 to work for Harvey’s park district and was promoted to executive director in April. She oversees an $854,000 annual budget.
Park board president Barbara Moore said she had no plans to suspend Cooper, despite the pending criminal charges.
“I’m not worried about (Cooper) misappropriating anything, no, sir, I’m not,” Moore said. “I feel very comfortable with her doing what she’s supposed to do.”
Cooper, who worked for the assessor’s office for 16 years, called it “shocking” that McCaskill would ask her to step aside.
“In America, you are innocent until proven guilty,” Cooper, who was charged in August, said. “I’ve been here over a year. I don’t think trust is an issue.”