State inspectors find ex-DCFS boss mismanaged contract, assistant

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Director George Sheldon left the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for a job at a Florida nonprofit agency. | Sun-Times file photo

State inspectors have found that George Sheldon — Gov. Bruce Rauner’s former child-welfare chief — mismanaged his department when it came to overseeing an assistant Sheldon had hired, as well as in awarding an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services contract, among other things.

Among the findings of the 39-page report, released Friday morning:

  • Sheldon improperly approved time cards for the assistant, Igor Anderson, on two days when “Anderson was not performing state duties,” according to the report. Anderson, whose driver’s license was suspended because of a DUI, was also tasked with driving state vehicles while traveling with Sheldon.
  • Sheldon “took official action related to awarding a no-bid contract” to a company “involving a person with whom Sheldon had a financial relationship.” That was in violation of DCFS’ conflict-of-interest policy.

Speaking with the Chicago Sun-Times Friday evening, Sheldon said the report’s findings were fair.

“If you look at the totality of the report, I think it was balanced and fair and put my tenure there in balance,” Sheldon said. “I have no regrets.”

The report, which also references grants awarded under Sheldon’s watch, is the result of joint investigation by the offices of the DCFS inspector general and Rauner’s executive inspector general; the probe began in late 2015.

“The governor’s office accepted and agreed with the OEIG’s [Office of Executive Inspector General] findings,” Rauner’s office said in a news release. “The governor’s office has been working diligently with DCFS and the chief procurement officer to implement the OEIG’s recommendations, as detailed in our response.”

Anderson was hired as a contracted “confidential assistant” and was set to be paid $25 per hour for organizing Sheldon’s schedule and traveling with him, all while maintaining confidentiality regarding the agency’s “goals and outcomes,” according to the report.

Sheldon said Anderson “clearly was not a good hire.”

The report details a trip that Sheldon and Anderson took to Saugatuck, Mich., in October 2015. Anderson claimed on his time sheet that he had done work for DCFS during that time and Sheldon approved it.

The two drove there in a state-owned vehicle, which Sheldon acknowledged “was a violation,” adding that he should not have approved the time that Anderson billed the state for. The report also states that Anderson billed the state for time worked during the Thanksgiving holiday in 2015 while he was on vacation in California.

Anderson was fired after three months on the job, according to Sheldon.

“He just clearly wasn’t ready for working in government,” Sheldon told the Sun-Times.

The other key finding involves property Sheldon co-owns in Tallahassee with Christopher Pantaleon, a subcontractor of Five Points Technology, which also contracts with DCFS.

Sheldon and Pantaleon have co-owned the property since 2003.

The report found that, while Sheldon was heading the agency, DCFS awarded a no-bid contract to Five Points, which netted Pantaleon $30,000. In the 2016 fiscal year, DCFS paid out a total of $150,000 to Five Points.

Sheldon, who eventually did disclose his relationship with Pantaleon, said he forgot that the two owned the property together, though it didn’t influence the procurement process.

“It didn’t influence my decision to bring him in,” Sheldon said. “It clearly presented the appearance of a conflict and clearly should’ve been disclosed earlier than I did.”

Sheldon resigned in late May amid questions about the way his agency handled the Semaj Crosby tragedy. Sheldon accepted a job at a nonprofit child-welfare organization in his home state of Florida.

Asked whether the investigation that spurred the report was a factor in his decision to leave, Sheldon said: “Not at all.”

The full text of the report can be read here.

Rauner appointed Beverly Walker his new DCFS chief in June.

Addressing a joint House-Senate committee in Chicago earlier this week, Walker said the agency has implemented four new “action steps” to help DCFS better analyze new cases.

“We’ve been engaged in taking a hard look at ourselves at every level but I want to assure you that this look is something that will always be continuous,” Walker said. “We’re not going to simply make a couple of changes in procedure and pronounce the job done. I want to assure you that this work has our most urgent attention.”

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