Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Wednesday continued to keep secret details in a report that preceded the firing of her security chief, releasing a heavily redacted document in response to a records request.
County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard last month found a county SUV used primarily by Preckwinkle security chief Delwin Gadlen was improperly used to transport political materials touting the board president and her allies. She then ordered a review of the detail’s practices, and the Chicago mayoral candidate’s administration released the initial results Wednesday in the form of a three-page document dated Oct. 26.
Everything in the report after each subheading is blacked out, however.
Those subheadings, though, highlight several “areas of concern,” including a “lack of management oversight and failure to adequately follow chain of command,” “failure to report the theft of a county vehicle,” “failure to implement a policy to adequately secure vehicles used to transport the executive,” “need to regularly conduct risk, vulnerability and threat assessments,” and “failure to develop operational and tactical standard operating guidelines or other job-related aides.”
“As a result (of the review), it was determined that a change in leadership was warranted,” Preckwinkle spokeswoman Becky Schlikerman said. “While we do not comment on personnel matters, it is imperative to maintain the safety of the president and the security detail while also being transparent.”
The report follows the bizarre incident during the early morning hours following the 2016 election when a Chevrolet Tahoe assigned to Preckwinkle’s security team was discovered abandoned near southwest suburban Lemont. In its cargo area, investigators found bags of political literature, a button with an image of Preckwinkle and a dry cleaning receipt with the phone number of her chief of security, Gadlen.
Blanchard’s report did not say what candidates the political materials supported. But the Cook County sheriff’s office, which responded to the scene, took photos showing the materials promoted the campaign of now-State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, among others.
Blanchard’s report concluded the SUV was improperly used to transport political materials but did not say who was driving when it was ditched or who placed the political materials in the vehicle. It did conclude that the SUV was driven primarily by Preckwinkle’s chief of security.
On Election Day 2016, Gadlen drove Preckwinkle to campaign events but said he did so in his personal car, according to the report. She told investigators he took her home around 9:30 that night.
A sheriff’s police officer found the vehicle stuck in the mud with its engine still warm, and a witness told police that the driver had abandoned the Tahoe and walked away, Blanchard said in his report.
He did not find any wrongdoing by Preckwinkle’s office, but the incident and her handling of it has led to criticism from county commissioners and some of her opponents in the Chicago mayoral race.
When interviewed by Blanchard’s investigators, Gadlen said the vehicle was stolen, though the alleged theft was never reported to police, the inspector general’s report said.
According to the report, Gadlen said he had “no idea how the vehicle was stolen.”
“How would I know how the materials got there?” he said. Asked again, the chief said the vehicle was stolen and that “(a) reasonable mind could say that the material could have been planted,” Blanchard said. When asked whether he was curious to learn who stole the vehicle, the chief said he had no interest and that such occurrences are commonplace, calling it “a joyride.”
Preckwinkle’s office has said she didn’t permit or authorize the county vehicle to be used to disseminate campaign materials. She was not in the Tahoe that day and rarely travels in the vehicle, her office said.
When the vehicle was found, all the tires were slashed, as was the driver’s seat, the center console and the dashboard, according to the inspector general’s report.
Blanchard’s investigators spoke to sheriff’s and county officials experienced in executive protection who said the damage “appears inconsistent with damage typically associated with vehicle theft.”
Instead, the damage “looked hurried and staged,” they said, according to Blanchard. All keys to the vehicle are accounted for and there were no signs of the car being forcibly started, the report said.
It’s unclear how the vehicle ended up ditched. The Tahoe previously was driven to a county security specialist’s home and left outside, Blanchard said.
Preckwinkle has said she believes the SUV was stolen even though officials never reported it to police.
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November 21, 2018 at 04:30PM