With Cook County being known nationwide for its levels of corruption you know it’s bad when Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez says that a case of corruption by Hanover Township’s former welfare services director, Aurea Picasso, “may be a new low in Cook County corruption.”
“Assistant State's Attorney Bill Conway said that as welfare director from 2003 to 2009, Picasso stole $124,560 using the township's checkbooks, the township food pantry checkbook, and an additional checking account provided by the Salvation Army for emergency situations.”
And as if that wasn’t enough…
“Picasso is also accused of enrolling family, friends and others for welfare benefits through the township. When those checks were processed, she would forge signatures and deposit the funds into her own bank account, allowing her to steal an additional $68,550, prosecutors said.”
Back in May of this year this blog looked into what role the lack of transparency played in allowing Aurea Picasso to escape scrutiny for so long. We found Hanover Township extremely lacking when it came to proactive online transparency.
When we first audited Hanover Township they scored a lowly 12.9 out of a possible 100 points on the 10-Point Transparency checklist. By late July the Local Transparency Project for the area revealed they had improved their score to a 70.4 out of 100.
We give kudos to elected officials and staff of Hanover Township. Not only were Hanover Township officials instrumental in exposing the corruption, but they have now implemented additional online transparency measures such as proactively including annual budgets, annual financial reports, employee salary information, bidding process information, lobbying information, and Freedom of Information Act submission information.
We hope other government agencies make similar improvements to online transparency, but hope they don't wait for a public corruption scandal to do so. Transparency serves as a deterrent to corruption and allows an opportunity for the public to expose corruption quickly when it does occur.