Dan Hynes Knew Burr Oak Grave Scandal in 2003


This investigation by ABC-7’s famed I-Team tells the full story: http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/iteam&id=7246921

“This is an outrage against every family who has ever watched as someone they loved was laid to rest in a cemetery,” said Quinn for Illinois Communications Director Elizabeth Austin. “Comptroller Hynes was happy to send out dozens of news releases boasting about cleaning up weeds at pioneer cemeteries in downstate communities. But when he had to confront a real problem affecting real families, he turned his back on his official duties – and on the families who were counting on him.”

The letter is addressed to Slivy Edmonds Cotton, former CEO of Perpetua Inc., the firm that owns the Burr Oak Cemetery in south suburban Alsip. Cotton left the firm in 2004. The letter, date-stamped Feb. 16, 2004, refers to a November 2003 meeting between Cotton and Percy Lucina, director of the comptroller’s cemetery care and burial trust division.

“I am writing in response to our meeting with you in November regarding the discovery of human remains at Burr Oak Cemetery,” the letter begins.

However, instead of taking action to prevent the gruesome discoveries of 2009, Lucina instead claimed the Comptroller’s office had no authority to regulate private cemeteries. In responding to the face-to-face report of human remains found improperly buried at Burr Oak Cemetery, the head of the Comptroller’s Cemetery Care division shuffled off responsibility, directing the concerned executive to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency instead.


So why, in testimony to Governor Quinn’s Cemetery Oversight Task Force Hearing on Sept. 10, 2009, did Hynes insist: “Not only did we do our job, but we took immediate action in the situation of Burr Oak. We immediately moved to revoke the license.”

Even after more than five years, 22 separate complaints, and 12 different staff visits by Hynes employees to the cemetery site, Comptroller Hynes claimed his office had no indication that there was any problem at Burr Oak Cemetery.

Yet Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, in testimony before the Task Force, stated: “The condition of the cemetery that we saw was atrocious, and beyond the criminal side of it, how anybody could suggest that that had been monitored or watched is a fabrication.” 

In questioning Comptroller Hynes, Republican State Rep. Dan Brady reprimanded Hynes for his attempt to shirk his responsibility for the Burr Oak disaster. “You know, to say you have limited authority, that’s not true,” Brady said. “You have all the authority when it comes to the cemetery care and burial trust in this state.”

State Rep. Ken Dunkin spoke to Hynes even more bluntly:  “It’s serious. So man up, find out what the hell went wrong in your shop, see what we can do to resolve this as a result of that negligence that occurred in your office.”

After a series of hearings on cemetery care in the summer of 1999, Hynes stated in a news release: “We heard from veterans deeply angered about the awful conditions of many neglected cemeteries in which veterans are buried. We heard from township officials truly upset about their inability to afford cemetery upkeep.”

And in 2004, the self-proclaimed “chief regulator of the cemetery and funeral home industries in Illinois” “pledged to continue his own efforts to root out unscrupulous funeral home and cemetery operators.”

Yet when a concerned constituent came to his office seeking help to protect the dignity of those buried at Burr Oak, Hynes refused to listen and looked the other way.
Comptroller Hynes owes an explanation, and an apology, to the families who continue to suffer from the horrible indignities inflicted on those buried at Burr Oak.