Ex-Park Chief Faces Misconduct, Theft Charges
Wallace, Diana, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Diana Wallace Daily Herald Staff Writer
Former Hoffman Estates Park District Director Ed Haag was indicted by a Cook County grand jury Wednesday on 29 counts of theft and official misconduct.
Haag was fired from the park district in 1996 after 20 years of employment. He was executive director for 17 of those years, one of the longest serving executive directors of any Northwest suburban park district.
The felony indictment was issued following a 19-month investigation by the Cook County state's attorney's office into allegations Haag used park district money and goods for personal use.
The indictment alleges Haag stole more than $4,000 from the park district between November 1989 to June 1995 - charges his attorney, Ernest Blomquist of Arlington Heights, vehemently denied Wednesday. He said Haag will plead not guilty.
"What is being done to Ed is an outrage," Blomquist said. "I'm very dismayed because this is a very good man who has to go through a lot of grief and heartache.
"Knowing the things I know and knowing this man, I'm very confident he will be cleared. He has suffered horribly for a very, very long time."
If convicted, Haag faces penalties that range from probation to two to five years in prison.
Reached at his Hoffman Estates home Wednesday, Haag said only, "I have no idea and I have no comment."
Haag was fired by the park board by a 4-3 vote in May 1996 following an internal investigation of his expense reports. The park district spent in excess of $50,000 for that investigation.
Questions over his spending practices surfaced in 1995 after employees approached park board commissioners about their concerns, said former Commissioner Pat Wilson.
In firing Haag, park district officials never publicly indicated they were dismissing him over allegations of malfeasance.
But the following month, after Wilson gave documents to the state's attorney's office, investigators confiscated boxes of park district records, including Haag's credit card statements for purchases for which he claimed reimbursement.
Since then, a Daily Herald analysis of park district records showed Haag recorded nearly $10,000 of reimbursements and charges to the district in a 22-month period.
Those expenses included beer and liquor reported as "miscellaneous office supplies," boating supplies park officials say were never requested or received, and $5,713 for meals with business associates, some of whom denied ever having those meals with Haag.
During the state's attorney's investigation, which included questioning of at least 40 current and former park district employees, employees also reportedly testified Haag borrowed park district goods that were never returned and had employees perform work on his Johnsburg riverfront home in McHenry County.
Both Haag's supporters and those who backed his dismissal expressed regret Wednesday that he now faces a public trial and possible imprisonment.
"I'm sad to see it go to that point. …