In southwest suburban Stickney, roses and other flowers have become a thorny issue for taxpayers.
Records obtained by FOX Chicago News and the Better Government Association show that since Daniel O'Reilly became mayor of Stickney in early 2009, the village has spent $1,140 on flowers purchased from the flower shop he owns in neighboring Berwyn. The flowers go to Stickney employees who are sick or have lost a loved one.
As mayor, O'Reilly even signs the village checks that he then cashes for his business.
"I think I'm giving the taxpayers a fair value for their money. I know our quality versus their quality. I know my prices versus their prices. I know what you get when you come to O'Reilly's flowers," O'Reilly said. "I don't see a problem here."
O'Reilly said the village attorney told him that as long as he discloses his ownership of the flower shop on his ethics statement -- which he does -- and the total dollars don't require a competitive bid -- which they don't -- it's both legal and ethical.
But until O'Reilly became mayor, Stickney bought flowers from other nearby florist shops, including his. Now O'Reilly's Flowers gets all the business.
"It is a conflict of interest," said BGA Senior Investigator Patrick Rehkamp. "The people of Stickney elected him as the village president to serve them, and not to help subsidize his own private company."
But the bigger question might be: why are taxpayer dollars going for flowers in the first place?
"At a time again when these budgets are in serious financial crisis, is it really the right way to be spending money like this," Rehkamp said.