Harvey Park District director stays on job
By Nick Swedberg Correspondent February 20, 2014 10:14PM
Updated: February 21, 2014 2:20AM
A Harvey Park District commissioner proposed Thursday night that the district’s executive director be suspended with pay while awaiting trial on embezzlement charges.
Or did he?
What actually took place during a 45-minute closed session of the park board meeting was in dispute after the two-hour meeting.
Commissioner Anthony McCaskill said after the meeting that he had unsuccessfully called in the closed session for the suspension of Dionne Cooper, who’s accused of conspiring to steal more than $112,000 in public money while working for the Cook County assessor’s office.
But Cooper and the park district attorney claimed that did not happen.
“At no point did he ask for Ms. Cooper’s resignation,” attorney Rick Hammond said.
During the board meeting, Cooper voluntarily gave up her power to sign off on transactions related to one of the park district’s bank accounts.
Hammond said she decided to do so as a goodwill gesture in light of the recent publicity from McCaskill’s proposal that she be suspended.
Cooper, 43, of Hazel Crest, allegedly conspired with another person to embezzle funds from October 2009 to April 2012 by processing 100 fraudulent applications for property tax refunds while at the assessor’s office.
The two allegedly split $112,342 in checks that were mailed from the county treasurer’s office to her accomplice, who so far has not been charged.
Cooper began working for the Harvey Park District after leaving the assessor’s office in May 2012. She was promoted to executive director last April.