By Sara Burnett
CHICAGO — The former head of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services improperly awarded a no-bid contract to someone with whom he owns a rental property and hired a person with a suspended driver’s license to a job that involved driving state vehicles, a state watchdog said in a report made public Friday.
The Office of the Executive Inspector General report also states George Sheldon approved a timesheet showing the employee he hired as his confidential assistant was working on days when they were on a non-business trip.
Sheldon, who resigned in May amid the ethics probe, called the findings “fair” and said that despite some missteps he has “no reservations about the work we did in Illinois.”
The Office of the Executive Inspector General opened its investigation after receiving an anonymous complaint in November 2015 — about nine months after Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed Sheldon to the job overseeing the state child welfare agency.
According to the report, the no-bid contract was awarded in March 2015 to a Florida-based consulting company and included $30,000 to be paid directly to consultant Christopher Pantaleon. At the time, Sheldon didn’t disclose that he and Pantaleon co-own a home in Florida that they rent out. The Office of the Executive Inspector General concluded that violated the agency’s conflict of interest policy.
Sheldon said he should have better understood the procurement process in Illinois. He said the consultants helped the state receive millions in federal funds for foster children who reach age 18 that DCFS hadn’t been seeking.
Sheldon hired Igor Anderson to be his confidential assistant in September 2015. The investigation found Anderson’s license was suspected or revoked as of August 2015 because he violated a previous restriction to drive only for business purposes after he was charged with driving under the influence. His license was revoked in October 2016, but he continued to drive state vehicles.
Sheldon also signed off on a timesheet in which Anderson said he was working but they were in Michigan.
Sheldon said it was “not the right hire” and that Anderson was terminated after three months.
Rauner’s spokeswoman said Friday the office has been working with DCFS to implement inspector general recommendations, including better training for staff and seeking $1,326 from Anderson to reimburse the state for hours he was paid for when he was not working.