The former executive director of a public agency that manages garbage collection for more than 20 north and northwest suburbs has been charged with stealing more than $900,000 in funds from the agency over a four-year period, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced on Friday, March 11th.
Christopher Brooke Beal, 47, of Chicago, served as executive director of the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) since 1993. He has been charged with Theft of Government Property, a Class X felony punishable by six to 30 years in prison. The Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County is a public agency that manages garbage collection for 23 north and northwestern suburban communities. While it is not a taxing body, the agency is funded primarily through taxpayer dollars from its member municipalities.
According to prosecutors, between 2006 and 2010, Beal is alleged to have accepted nearly $850,000 in payments from SWANCC for alleged reimbursement expenses for prestigious executive and graduate management classes that he never attended or even enrolled in. Among the programs that Beal submitted false expense reports for attendance were the Executive Program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, the Harvard Kennedy School and the University of Chicago. According to prosecutors, none of these institutions have any record of Beal having been enrolled in their programs.
In addition, above his $160,000 annual salary from the agency, Beal claimed and was paid more than $100,000 in general expenses, much of which he used for personal trips and for membership in the University Club of Chicago, a private members-only social club.
“When the stain of corruption robs the average citizen of the money that they are paying for their garbage collection, it is pretty clear that we have a problem, a very serious problem,” said Alvarez. “My office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute cases of local public corruption such as this.”
According to prosecutors, officials at SWANCC became suspicious of the thefts while the agency was conducting its annual audit in September of 2010 and contacted the State’s Attorney’s Office. At the time, accountants found an inexplicable increase on employee related expenses, all of which were paid to Beal.
Beal was confronted by auditors who asked to see documentation authorizing and accounting for the reimbursement of the expenses. Beal then provided them with a forged email purportedly from another SWANCC official authorizing his actions.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office arranged for Beal to voluntarily surrender to authorities last night and he appeared in bond court this morning at Cook County Circuit in Skokie where his bond was set at $500,000 by Judge Larry Axelrood, who continued the case for status on April 1, 2011. Additionally, the defendant will be subject to electronic home monitoring, and he was ordered to surrender his passport and firearms as conditions of his release.
State’s Attorney Alvarez thanked SWANCC officials, Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen and the Glenview Police Department for their cooperation and assistance in the investigation.
The public is reminded that charging documents contain allegations that are not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial at which the state has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.