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City Colleges hires former fired Stroger comptroller

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle | Sun-Times Medifiles

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle | Sun-Times Media files

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Updated: May 25, 2013 6:25AM

A former Cook County comptroller fired in 2011 after presiding over a department accused of overstating tax revenues by $90 million has landed on her feet — in a $95,000-a-year job at Chicago City Colleges.

Connie Kravitz was quietly appointed district director of financial planning and budget for City Colleges at the April 4 board meeting, according to a personnel report approved by the board that day.

The appointment marks a political comeback for Kravitz, who was appointed to the $165,000-a-year job of Cook County comptroller in September 2009 by then-Board President Todd Stroger, only to be fired two years later after Preckwinkle defeated Stroger.

Shortly after taking office, Preckwinkle disclosed that her staff had discovered a discrepancy while preparing financial reports for a routine audit of the 2010 fiscal year.

After digging deeper and examining reports for the previous year, they found duplicate journal entries for both $66 million in sales tax revenue and $24 million for cigarette tax proceeds.

One of Kravitz’s subordinates initially wore the jacket for double-booking the revenues and was fired. But it wasn’t long before the comptroller, too, was sent packing.

“We had the $90 million misstatement on her watch, but it was just time for us to go in a different direction,” Preckwinkle’s then-chief of staff Kurt Summers told the Chicago Sun-Times then.

At the time of her dismissal, Kravitz had been publicly criticized at a County Board meeting for an error-filled report her office had released detailing which county employees had and had not taken furlough days that year.

Preckwinkle ordered her to redo the report and publicly condemned the mistakes as “embarrassing.”

Reached Tuesday at City Colleges, Kravitz said she has taken a “substantial pay cut” to return to the government work she loves.

“I didn’t commit any mistake. That wasn’t the reason I was fired. It was an excuse. The only reason I was fired is because I was part of the Stroger administration. Me, along with a whole bunch of other people,” Kravitz said.

Pressed to explain the $90 million double-billing, she said, “It wasn’t my mistake. I’m the one who caught it. And I wasn’t immediately fired. It was October when I was let go. We went public in May. At the time I was fired, I was told it wasn’t because of that. I’m a good, solid, hard worker. Me being let go that way and publicly like that — that hurt me. Please don’t continue that. I’m not politically backed.”

In an email to the Sun-Times, City Colleges spokesman Laurent Pernot called Kravitz a “seasoned finance professional with a strong track record” in the public and private sectors, including stints at City Hall and the Chicago Park District.

“While we cannot speak for Cook County on the reasons for ending her tenure there, during the hiring process we did speak with finance professionals familiar with her performance and the reporting issue at the County, and they endorsed her professional abilities and saw no link between Ms. Kravitz and the reporting mistake pertaining to the double-booking of accruals, which she uncovered herself,” Pernot wrote.

The hiring was disclosed on the same day that Hyman and Mayor Rahm Emanuel welcomed a World Bank delegation eager to learn more about the colleges-to-career makeover at City Colleges and touted the nearly 60 percent increase that program has triggered in the number of students expected to earn associate degrees.

Even with the increase, the graduation rate at City Colleges stands at just 12 percent. But, the 4,000 students in line to receive associate degrees represents the largest number of graduates in more than 20 years, officials said.

“The strategic, effective and innovative choices we have made through the College to Careers program ensure that our students get the education they need to compete for and win the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow, promoting a strong and vibrant workforce that helps our city thrive,” Emanuel was quoted as saying in a press release.

“We could not be more proud of these students and their results, showing we are on the right track.”

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