The head of security for mayoral hopeful and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was fired last week, two years after a county-owned SUV was found abandoned in a ditch in southwest suburban Lemont Township.

Delwin Gadlen was terminated last Friday after Preckwinkle “ordered a full review of the executive security detail’s operations and practices,” Preckwinkle spokeswoman Becky Schlikerman said in an emailed statement.

After that review, Schlikerman said, “it was determined that a change in leadership was warranted.”

Preckwinkle’s security detail was placed under the authority of the Cook County Forest Preserve police last September, Schlikerman said.

Gadlen’s ouster comes two years after a county-owned 2016 Chevrolet SUV was found abandoned in a ditch in Lemont Township.

Records previously obtained by the Sun-Times showed that the vehicle contained campaign materials, including a button with Preckwinkle’s face and sample ballots, as well as a dry-cleaning receipt for Gadlen.

Some of the contents of a county-issued SUV that was found in a ditch in November 2016. That vehicle is part of Preckwinkle’s security detail. | Provided photo

County vehicles are to be used for government business, not for political purposes, and the county’s inspector general opened an investigation into the abandoned vehicle.

Findings from the county inspector general’s office published earlier this month say that all four of the SUV’s tires were slashed, as were the vehicle’s center console, dashboard, interior driver door panel and ceiling panel above the driver’s seat. The vehicle’s engine was still warm when police arrived.

A woman who called 911 about the vehicle in the early hours of Nov. 9, 2016, told the inspector general’s office that the driver of the SUV walked away after the vehicle got stuck in the muddy ditch.

Investigating officers got in touch with Gadlen by using the dry-cleaning receipt, which included his phone number.

The inspector general’s report contained details of the exchange between Gadlen and a Cook County sheriff’s officer, which reads in part:

“The officer stated that [Gadlen] did not ask where the vehicle was located, what the nature of the damage was to the vehicle or whether there were keys in the vehicle. When the officer asked [Gadlen] ‘Don’t you want to know where it’s at?’ [Gadlen] replied by stating ‘Why are you asking?’ The officer characterized [Gadlen] as being very ‘nonchalant.’”

It’s still unclear who was behind the wheel before the SUV was abandoned. It was not reported stolen to police.

Gadlen could not be reached for comment Monday.

His time with Preckwinkle goes back to her days as a candidate for the county’s highest office.

Gadlen volunteered for Preckwinkle’s campaign before being brought on as part of Preckwinkle’s security detail, the Better Government Association previously reported.

In September, Preckwinkle’s chief of staff, John Keller, resigned over allegations of “inappropriate and disrespectful behavior.”

 

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