January 13, 2011 12:01 PM
Is Treasurer Maria Pappas Wasting Your Tax Dollars?
Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas' puzzling payroll includes a software-application implementing "project leader" who makes $94,000 a year — and also drives her car.
By BGA and Pam Zekman/CBS 2
CHICAGO — She has a driver who makes $94,000 a year and a cleaning lady making $57,000 a year. Is Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas wasting tax dollars?
In a joint investigation with the Better Government Association, CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman has been following these employees and found that their job titles have nothing to do with the work they actually do.
For days the BGA and CBS 2 watched as Emanuel Hatzisavas picked up Pappas from her Gold Coast home. Some days he waits hours for Pappas to depart and some days he drives her to yoga lessons at the East Bank Club.
CBS 2 hidden cameras captured Hatzisavas appearing to deliver clothes to the Pappas’ home. When Pappas was showed the video and asked how she could justify Hatzisavas doing personal errands she replied, "You know what, okay, alright, you know what look."
Pappas pointed out that she makes monthly, $150 reimbursements to cover any use of county resources for personal matters. Over the past ten years she says she has paid the county back $17,000.
CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman then showed Pappas video of Hatzisavas parked outside the East Bank Club waiting for her to finish her yoga lesson.
"I don’t know, Pam I’m not hiding him," Pappas said after viewing the under cover video.
But the driver is hidden in the budget as a "Project Leader." The official job summary description includes; consulting with county officials "in the design, development and implementation of varied and highly sophisticated computer software applications to enhance business operations."
So what was he doing after picking Pappas up at her home one morning last month at about 10:45 a.m., then taking her to the East Bank Club for a yoga class, and waiting nearby for more than an hour and a half in a Dodge Caravan the Treasurers office leases for $13,680 a year?
"[He's] going to stay with me 24/7, no matter what," Pappas said.
Pappas said she needs to keep Hatzisavas close because she uses him for security. Pappas claims that over the past ten years she has received repeated threats and provided records that she says document the threats.
But, what is Hatzisavas’ security training?
"He’s alerted to speak to me in my language. I switch and speak to him in Greek if I think there is a problem," Pappas explained.
Last year Hatzisavas made $94,078 as a Project Leader, which is just $11,000 less than the Treasurer makes.
Pappas says when he’s not driving her, Hatzisavas works in her personnel department doing, "Whatever needs to be done."
Pappas confirmed that Hatzisavas also alternates with two other staffers to drive her on weekends. For that work, she says they are reimbursed with comp time.
"I trust them. I feel safe when they’re around. Got all these nuts," Pappas said.
Pappas also says she only trusts one woman, Teresa Kawa, to clean her offices in the County Building. Kawa, Pappas confirmed, cleans her home twice a week and showed us personal checks documenting that she has paid Kawa from $4,000 to $4,500 in a lump sum at the end of each year to clean her condo for the last four years.
About nine years ago some "briefcase computers" were stolen from Pappas’ county offices and after the incident hired Kawa to clean all 20,000 square feet of office space the Treasurer occupies on the first and second floors of the county building. Pappas produced records that she says show Kawa cleans the offices every night from about 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
But Kawa is listed on the county payroll as a $57,347 a year, "Administrative Analyst." The job duties described for this position include the following language; "Performs detailed investigation and analysis of operational systems and procedures, program and organization structures and polices to ascertain fiscal, technical, administrative or other problems which need further attention."
Zekman asked why isn’t Kawa listed as a janitor or custodial worker in the budget?
"All the job descriptions in the county are improper," Pappas said, "And there is no position for janitor. That’s sort of how the county’s antiquated system works."
But we checked the phone-book sized county budget and it turns out there are listings for janitorial positions in the budget of the Cook County Sheriff, who’s department is responsible for providing staff to clean the county building. And they do clean Pappas’ office, but apparently not good enough to please Pappas.
"I am a neat freak," Pappas admitted, "I want it immaculate. You’re right." She said Kawa is the best person to do the job and, "I’m not getting rid of her."
Andy Shaw, the head of the Better Government Association, said that if Pappas believes she has to have the positions, there is a right way to do it.
"Put those in the budget under the proper classification, figure out the proper salary and be prepared to defend that at Cook County budget hearings," Shaw said.
"The problem here is that she’s hiding these positions because they’re indefensible," added Shaw.
After an on camera interview with CBS 2 and the Better Government Association, Maria Pappas met with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart whose office said they are "actively reviewing" files she provided "which appear to show a history of threats and harassing communications" made against Pappas.
As a result, the Sheriff’s Office is conducting a complete security analysis of the Treasurers office.
A statement issued on the threats said "some of those remain an ongoing concern" for Pappas and the Sheriff’s Office "has agreed to provide Protection Training to the Treasurer’s designated appointee, if necessary."
Pappas has cut her payroll by 50% since she was first elected in 1998 and she says she plans on meeting the challenge to reduce her budget by another 16% as requested by the Cook County Board President.