Ex-District 97 building manager to serve 6-year sentence

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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

A former Buildings and Grounds Department supervisor for Oak Park School District 97 was sentenced last month to six years in prison for stealing more than $750,000 from the district over three years, beginning nearly a decade ago.

Judge Diane Cannon sentenced Jerry Malatesta, 64, on Jan. 12, according to the Cook County State's Attorney's press office. He was admitted the next day to the Dixon Correctional Center in Dixon.

Malatesta was charged with felony theft in 2008 for allegedly billing the district for work that was never done.

Between 2004 and 2007, he allegedly coerced two contractors to help him bill for the work, cash checks and give part of the money back to him.

In April 2007, Malatesta was placed on leave after an audit revealed irregular spending patterns in building maintenance. He was fired later that year, based on evidence gathered by investigators.

D97 filed a civil lawsuit the next year against Malatesta and the two contractors, George Coventry and Terry Karitsiotis, saying the three men "engaged in ongoing conspiracies to commit fraud against the district and its taxpayers." The suit identified dozens of invoices submitted by the contractors to the district, with amounts that varied from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

D97 Superintendent Al Roberts said in a statement that district staff are "very satisfied" with Malatesta's conviction.

"While Mr. Malatesta's actions were deplorable, we are very pleased that the internal controls implemented by the district brought this theft to light and that those controls ensure that our financial resources are used to provide our students with a quality education."

Malatesta was hired in 1988 and spent his entire career in the district with the Buildings and Grounds Department. His salary before he was fired was $120,840.

Reader Comments

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Paul Dollamon  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 3:46 PM

Can't believe this case was concealed to the public until after the referendum passed. I find it hard to believe that this was the only fraud that occurred. This guy worked for 20 years for Fagan. He used OP taxpayers like a ATM. Just keep

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2012 11:28 PM

Maybe I'm Ignorant, you are correct, it's more likely an area Devin felt wasn't necessary to check in to as a staff reporter.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2012 11:26 PM

Superintendent Al Roberts, "While Mr. Malatesta's actions were deplorable, we are very pleased that the internal controls implemented by the district brought this theft to light." Al, you lack common sense because your internal controls let 750,000.00 dollars slip by for 3 years. Maybe it's possible that someone noticed something wasn't right and that started an investigation, but that's reassuring to the tax payers that their money is safe with your internal controls.

resident  

Posted: March 8th, 2012 10:19 PM

Is this the same as hiring a friend and then paying them over $275,000 in checks under $25,000 without the boards approval? I guess not. Nobody went to jail for that one.

J  

Posted: February 25th, 2012 10:57 AM

Call A Pro, Call Ronbo

ron feley from Oak Brook  

Posted: February 25th, 2012 6:35 AM

I moved out of this God forsaken town years ago. All you Joke Parkers have NO idea what made Oak Park, If Earnest Hemmingway was alive he would come to Joke Park and shoot half of you prior to blowing his own head off!! Your schools and parks are riding out the 60s when Oak Park was good. You are the laughing stock of out lying suburbs who have passed you up and never looked back! Your parks, schools and public buildings and pools SUCK! Traffic is like Wrigglyville during a game U BEEN ZENNED

Maybe I'm Ignorant, But  

Posted: February 24th, 2012 6:56 PM

I guess I don't know the law very well, but shouldn't Malatesta pay back the money he stole from our schools, from our children and teachers? Does anyone know?

Roberts' Rules  

Posted: February 24th, 2012 11:43 AM

Roberts should only last till the end of his 3yr contract. I understand that Roberts is a lot like Fagan, don't question him, well as an employee, teacher board member. He has run rough over them all on FastFoWord and the Election day issue. I'd say it is time to get another supt already!

parent  

Posted: February 24th, 2012 11:28 AM

We should keep in mind that this crime occured during Fagan's administration - a time when questioning the administration was considered to be absolute heresy. Fagan was credited with doing a "great" job in part because staff was so happy that there was never a strike. Nothing wrong with happy, but as this crime shows, without accountability, hidden costs can be huge. Transparency and accountability are critical.

Huh?  

Posted: February 24th, 2012 10:50 AM

@Disgusted - What rapid turnover of supt.s are you referring to? Fagen was in OP almost 20 years. Collins was here 5 and really wasn't asked to stay longer. Round Lake is not a move up! And Roberts is in year 2. You sound like you want someone to be supt. for 50 years! And then you'd say that the position was stale and needed new blood!

NOPE 2012 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 6:43 PM

Jim, you & I agree about our State of Corruption. This is a cultural problem. It was born in Chicago & Cook Cty, & spreads its tentacles to every corner of the state. It is in the DNA of the Cook Cty Democrat Party, which then infects & de facto controls the weak IL Republicans from DuPage & downstate. The grassroots effort needs to start here, in Cook Cty, by firing incumbents. We need to somehow become a true multi-party democracy. We're "progressive" here. Let the revolution begin w/us!!

Unfortunately  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 5:51 PM

@Con Parent. I know Irving very, very well-frequently witness the fun and joy exhibited by the kids during recess, lunch, before and after school. For them, and many others, the asphalt is a divine place. I also see Carroll and Longfellow - and the kids are on the asphalt - not the dirt/grass/mud. I can understand the "green space" argument/wish, but $$$ and priorities...? Also, I'm skeptical of the "need" part of the message - esp because I know that Irving kids ARE thriving today on asphalt.

Unfortunately  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 5:43 PM

@JC. I agree with your comments regarding the insanities coming from the VMA board - is it true that Pope and Johnson are the longest serving board members in the last 50 years? Why? I'm sure that they are nice guys, but they are not omnipotent and the past 10 years are evidence of that. Harmon? He was chosen by Cullerton as the Asst Majority Leader in the Senate. Add in that he's an OP resident....and that he's overseeing all of this...yep, sadly, our local "poster child" for IL corruption!

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 5:30 PM

It's going to take a grassroots effort by the people to rid Illinois of the corruption we see at every level government. Ethics legislation has been ignored for decades and politicians are unable to act in the public's best interests. The answer must come from the ballot box. Let's hear what the experts say is the best course to take in order to rid of ourselves of this problem and restore trust. I don't want to make Don Harmon the poster child of bad behavior by our elected officials. He certainly has not demonstrated any willingness to change the culture in Springfield but is not the only one who has failed to stand up for honest and open government. Look at how Oak Park Village Hall has addressed questions and concerns regarding TIF revenues and expenditures. Officials defend their actions by claiming they follow the law but the rules and regulations are so weak that it's impossible to actually learn how our tax dollars are collected and spent. We need strong leadership to achieve the reforms that will turn the current way of doing business on it's head. Lawmakers are perfectly satisfied with maintaining the status quo. They're getting rich and we're getting soaked.

Concerned Parent  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 5:27 PM

@Concerned Taxpayer, clearly you don't understand the benefits of the project to the community/taxpayers such as yourself, or you wouldn't have made the snide comments. Also, it's hard to have decent dialouge with a myopic thinker, so that's all I will say to you. @Unfortunately, the project does enhance what takes place in the classroom, which is what you cite as your focus...but your comment suggests you feel otherwise (?) Given the $$ amt, I wonder if a plan somewhere between is possible.

Concerned Taxpayer  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 4:41 PM

I looked at the Irving School Yard website. Not only is it a "want", it's the Lexus of "wants". It's needed because some parents want it. How did I ever learn to read and write without an artificial turf field and what appears to be a Zen garden?

Unfortunately  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 4:38 PM

@JC. How about Trainor and Haley "interview" Harmon and ask what HE is going to do about this issue? Or does Harmon more value his "position" and "power?" @Concerned Parent. In a perfect world I'd support the Irving plan. But $2M is a lot of money. Further, I happen to know that the present Irving kids at OPRF (and beyond!) are thriving - while only having asphalt. K-5 is brief and what takes place in the classroom, with the excellent Irving teachers, is paramount. That's my focus.

GET A CLUE!  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 3:44 PM

And you people think your property taxes HAVE to be that ridiculously high! BUY A CLUE! You're getting fleeced left and right!

Concerned Parent  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 3:30 PM

@Unfortunately, the Irving schoolyard project is not a "want," it's a "need." And why insult the students? As a mom of 2 there, I am very offended, and I usually agree with your comments. Shame on you. Your really should educate yourself on the merits of this "grass roots, community led" project and the benefits to the students and the community overall. http://www.irvingschoolyard.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/FULL-PRESENTATION-REDUCEDSIZE.pdf

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 2:20 PM

Thanks, Unfortunately. I wonder if the Civic Federation or any local organization would be able to develop a plan for reforming Illinois politics that would move us out of the bottom tier of the most corrupt U.S. states? It's time for the Land of Lincoln to lead the way. Citizens could present the pledge to reform to their elected officials and ask them to sign on. Voters would know who refused and could take action to replace them. Let's envision the day when Illinois is respected for it's commitment to honest government instead of being known as a safe haven for those who dishonor the public trust.

Unfortunately  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 2:04 PM

And, fwiw, I agree with just about all of the posts here (and, "Silly," I didn't write any of them!). Next? D97 will attempt to spend a ton of money for a "want" - a new Irving playground. Why? Because everyone just KNOWS that those millions spent will transform the hapless Irving kids. Right? At least there is transparency here - perhaps Harmon can obtain a grant and then be a hero? In the meantime, Springfield is going bankrupt. Since it is not their money (ipads, etc.) - they don't care

Unfortunately  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 1:58 PM

@JC. I couldn't say it any better. Which reminds me of the massive Harmon/Lilly campaign sign that I saw today on Ridgeland and Monroe - and the numerous Madigan ones seen on Central coming back from Midway. The easiest path for us is thru them. Is Harmon listening? Does he care? I know that he talks the talk, but....? In the meantime, has he EVER done anything for OP other than give goodies (grants) from the state? His version of bread and circuses? Is he a man or a mouse? Ask Madigan?

Disgusted from Oak Park  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 10:54 AM

I associate this slipslod administration with the steady turnover in the superintendent's office. We congratulate ourselves on our nationwide recruiting searches, but all it brings us is upwardly mobile types with no long term stake in the community, only here to implement a few resume-enhancing pet programs and move on in a few years for a better opportunity. Same goes for village hall.

doc walsh from wooddale  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 10:20 AM

there is no transparency and should not be if all officials are honest recommend a new manager be hired within this time

steve  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 9:35 AM

i'm sure he is still getting a pension.

A Parent  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 7:31 AM

D97 is currently spending hundreds of thousands on IPads and laptops. Some have already gone "missing". Who's keeping track of that inventory? An outside party, or another "trusted" administrator?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: February 22nd, 2012 9:55 PM

Good post. We've learned that across this state and at every level of government; our elected officials are unwilling to take any meaningful action that protects the public's interests. Accountability and Transparency are just campaign slogans. They fight all efforts for real reform. It's not much of stretch to believe that we're being robbed blind. But public corruption is not limited to the actual theft of tax dollars but exists in the awarding of no-bid contracts, hiring practices and sweetheart deals. There seems to be no end to their greed. We deserve better.

Imagine!  

Posted: February 22nd, 2012 9:01 PM

Imagine the good that could have been done for children in Oak Park grammar schools with the $750,000 stolen. Six years in jail doesn't seem like an even exchange for stealing the good that tax money would have done for so many kids. Imagine a world where people charged with the public trust weren't crooked. We'd have up-to-date infrastructure, well-paved streets, competent public services of every kind,and well-educated kids!

Read this  

Posted: February 22nd, 2012 7:12 PM

Al Roberts is stealing $500,000.00 from D97 with fast forWord, and with board approval. Stop fast ForWord implementation now.

John from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2012 6:17 PM

So will the taxpayers recoup any of the stolen money?

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