The final chapter in one of the biggest corruption scandals in Chicago history came to an end Jan. 26, as a federal jury convicted former Chicago transportation official John Bills on all charges.
Formerly second-in-command at the Chicago Department of Transportation, Bills was convicted on 20 counts of mail and wire fraud, bribery, extortion, conspiracy and tax evasion charges.
The jury found that Bills took hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and perks from Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. in exchange for helping the company win and maintain Chicago city contracts for its red-light camera system.
The guilty verdict comes with a maximum potential prison sentence of more than 300 years, according to the Chicago Tribune, and serves as a case study in Chicago waste and corruption.
Federal prosecutors mentioned some of the biggest names in Illinois politics in their case against Bills.
The admitted bagman for Bills’ scheme with Redflex, Martin O’Malley, said Bills ordered him to cut checks totaling $5,500 to Illinois House of Representatives Speaker Mike Madigan’s 13th Ward Democratic Organization, according to the Tribune.
Prosecutors submitted documents in December that show how Bills not only rigged the red-light-camera bidding process in Redflex’s favor, but also pushed the city’s adoption of speed cameras. This involved further interaction with Madigan.
In April 2010, O’Malley sent an email to Redflex Vice President of Sales and Marketing Aaron Rosenberg highlighting Madigan’s powwow with Bills, writing: “JB has talked to Speaker of the house Matigan [sic] about Speed. Time for you to have private meeting & presentation!!!”
Madigan later sponsored a bill allowing speed cameras in Chicago, which former Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law on Feb. 6, 2012.
Prosecutors also produced an email describing a meeting Bills had with then-Mayor Richard M. Daley regarding red-light cameras.
Prosecutors never alleged any wrongdoing on the part of Madigan or Daley. But Bills was clearly prized for his political connections.
After the verdict, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Bills’ lawyer insisted his client had been framed.