Corruption Watch: April 2015

Shawn Tonge

Shawn Tonge is a Good Government Research Assistant at the Illinois Policy Institute.

May 8, 2015

Corruption Watch: April 2015

April saw two major players in Illinois education ensnared in charges of cronyism, among more than 60 other corruption-related stories.

Both the College of DuPage, or COD, and Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, came under investigation in April for contracts given to politically connected firms. The deals at issue have raised serious concerns about conflicts of interest and insider dealing at these two pillars of public education in Illinois.

Federal authorities are looking into a $20.5 million deal made by CPS in 2013. A no-bid contract was given to SUPES Academy, an organization with ties to CPS head Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

SUPES, which specializes in the training of school principals, previously employed Byrd-Bennett. Under her leadership, CPS awarded the lucrative contract to SUPES without any competitive process.

Byrd-Bennett said a no-bid contract was justified because SUPES was the only business qualified to provide the training needed. Critics were quick to point to other vendors that provide similar services, including several local groups that have worked with CPS in the past.

Soon after the story broke, outraged protestors gathered in front of City Hall. The group called for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to remove the current school board and appoint new members.

April also saw numerous news stories highlighting wasteful spending and lax oversight at the College of DuPage. One of the issues now being investigated at the Glen Ellyn-based school is cronyism in the college’s fundraising arm.

A Chicago Tribune investigation found that the College of DuPage Foundation frequently awards contracts to contractors with clout. Ten members of the foundation’s board have financial stakes in companies working at the school. These politically connected vendors have charged the college close to $200 million over the last five years.

The foundation’s anti-competitive selection process may be challenged by the three reform candidates elected to the COD board in April. The new board members plan to conduct a performance audit of the school’s finances since 2009, including expenses made by the foundation.

Competitive bidding ensures that projects go to the most qualified candidate at the best price available. Backroom deals between public officials and connected firms circumvent that process, benefiting the insiders at the expense of taxpayers.

When companies land contracts because of who they know rather than how well they can do the job, everyone else loses.

Here are your corruption stories across the state for the month of April:

67. April 30, 2015

State Journal-Register: Review finds Department of Corrections workers abused overtime

Illinois Department of Corrections workers have been abusing overtime rules, according to a report released Thursday by the state auditor general.

Auditor General William Holland said Corrections workers have engaged in “shift swapping,” in which they use sick or personal time for a regular shift, then work another shift the same day at the overtime rate. Holland’s audit said that not only does the state pay the employee at the overtime rate, but it also must pay another employee overtime to cover the shift for which the leave time was used.

66. April 30, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Man behind controversial CPS contract allegedly used racist language, sent predatory emails

Solomon is one of the owners of SUPES Academy, which received a $20.5 million no-bid contract from CPS in 2013. The FBI is investigating the awarding of the contract, and CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett — who once worked for SUPES — has taken a paid leave of absence after the existence of the federal corruption probe became public recently.

In 2001, Solomon was forced out of Niles West High School after his bosses accused him of “immoral and unprofessional” conduct, including allegations he kissed a female student, covered up students’ drug and alcohol use and sent “sexually suggestive” emails to students, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported.

65. April 29, 2015

Better Government Association: Melrose Park mayor’s conflict-of-interest question

Melrose Park Mayor Ronald Serpico, an attorney who runs his own law firm, does legal work for a suburban bank that holds millions of dollars in deposits from the municipal government he runs.

What’s more, Serpico doesn’t reveal this business relationship on economic disclosure reports that public officials fill out so taxpayers have an idea of potential conflicts of interest and outside income streams for government officials.

64. April 29, 2015

Crain’s Chicago Business: Paul Vallas has a radical fix for Chicago schools

In an interview yesterday and a written summary of his thoughts, a very candid Vallas was sharply critical of “kick the can down the road” decisions that have undermined CPS finances to such a degree that Gov. Bruce Rauner recently suggested bankruptcy as a potential outcome.

Vallas didn’t back that idea, but he said CPS needs some adult supervision from an outside financial watchdog and he urged creation of a unit to manage CPS debt, leaving the Chicago district to focus on education.

63. April 28, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: CPS botches math, fails to count schools in janitorial contract, costing millions

A $7 million problem, to be exact.

That’s how much more CPS has spent than anticipated on a contract because it failed to count all the schools that needed to be cleaned.

It’s the latest wrinkle in a controversial contract to privatize custodial management with Aramark, which has faced sharp criticism for failing to keep schools clean.

62. April 28, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Ethanol producer tops off Burke’s political fund

When Chicago’s most powerful alderman began pushing for legislation that could mean big money for a major industry, it seemed only a matter of time before Edward Burke got a generous campaign contribution from someone who stood to benefit.

The Archer Daniels Midland Co. — the local agribusiness giant that’s among the world’s biggest ethanol producers — recently gave $20,000 to a political committee led by Burke.

The contribution to the longtime 14th Ward alderman and Finance Committee chairman is the biggest check ADM has written to an Illinois politician in seven years, according to state campaign-finance reports.

61. April 28, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Incoming, outgoing College of DuPage trustees spar over control

A newly elected majority of College of DuPage trustees wants to vote Thursday to remove embattled President Robert Breuder — but the old board appears to be standing in its way.

A proposed meeting by the new trustees, which includes an agenda item to place Breuder on paid leave, is at odds with a special meeting already called by the outgoing board. That scheduled meeting, announced by the college, is to be followed by the new trustees’ introduction, implying that the special meeting is for the outgoing board members.

60. April 27, 2015

Chicago Tribune: A principal’s view – Amazing waste at CPS

In July of 2013 I attended a program titled “Leadership Launch with Dr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett.” It was aimed at motivating principals to attend a series of professional development workshops organized by SUPES Academy, a training organization that is at the heart of a federal inquiry. Byrd-Bennett, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, is on a paid leave of absence in light of the investigation of the district’s decision to award a $20.5 million no-bid contract to SUPES.

There now needs to be a public debate about the contradictions of CPS’ stated austerity and its continued wasteful spending on everything from absentee custodial management firms to charter schools to spending $9.5 million on furniture for the district’s new offices.

Eventually this public conversation needs to make its way up the chain of command — to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office.

59. April 27, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Treasurer report finds fault in internship, scholarship programs

An independent review of the Illinois state treasurer’s office released Monday found problems with internship hiring that favored those with political connections and other programs in need of overhaul.

Democrat Mike Frerichs, having reached the symbolic benchmark 100 days in office, released the results of the audit he promised after becoming the state’s chief investment officer in January. He said he will closely review the report’s recommendations and emphasized initiatives on which he has embarked.

58. April 27, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Preckwinkle tries to make Berrios nepotism fine stick

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will try once again to make a punishment stick against Assessor Joe Berrios for hiring two relatives after a judge last week tossed out $10,000 in fines the Board of Ethics had tried to impose for violating nepotism rules shortly after taking office.

On Monday, Preckwinkle notified county commissioners that she will propose a change to the ethics ordinance at Wednesday’s board meeting. The move comes after Circuit Court Judge Moshe Jacobius concluded that although the ethics panel had jurisdiction over Berrios, it did not have direct authority to fine him.

57. April 27, 2015

Better Government Association: Taking a hit in Melrose Park – Cop arrested, police department bruised

Melrose Park Police Detective Greg Salvi was recently arrested by the FBI and charged with some pretty heavy drug trafficking offenses.

The department’s image was never pristine, even before Pitassi’s predecessor, Vito Scavo, went off to prison in 2010 for corruption – forcing local businesses, including the amusement park Kiddieland, to hire his private security firm, which was staffed with on-duty cops.

56. April 27, 2015

WBEZ: Chicago school cleaning contract millions over budget

Chicago Public Schools’ three-year contract with Philadelphia-based Aramark to manage all school cleaning services is $22 million over budget, according to procurement and finance records obtained by WBEZ.

Aramark has billed Chicago Public Schools $86 million for the first 11 months of its three-year contract. The first year price tag was initially set at $64 million.

55. April 27, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: McCarthy says acquitted detective never should have been indicted

Acquitted Chicago Police Detective Dante Servin “hit the individual who he was aiming at” and never should have been indicted, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Monday, citing details of the case that have not yet been released.

Pressed to explain just what those extenuating circumstances were, McCarthy refused, citing an ongoing investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority into the shooting that killed 22-year-old Rekia Boyd.

54. April 26, 2015

State Journal-Register: Illinois GOP targets political hiring; Democrats wary

Illinois Republicans have unveiled legislation backed by Gov. Bruce Rauner that they say will clean up state hiring rules that allow a governor to hand out jobs to loyal lieutenants instead of hiring strictly on merit.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Karen McConnaughay of St. Charles, is intended to rectify problems uncovered last year in a hiring scandal at the Illinois Department of Transportation under former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

53. April 25, 2015

Daily Herald: State lawmakers – Cap college president severance deals

State lawmakers Friday moved to cap severance packages like the one received by College of DuPage President Robert Breuder and limit the length of future presidents’ contracts.

Breuder’s $763,000 severance deal sparked a flurry of legislation in Springfield earlier this year, and the Illinois House approved state Rep. Jeanne Ives’ plan to limit the size of future community college buyout packages to no more than one year’s salary and benefits.

52. April 25, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Grant would have benefited deadbeat ex-con who owed state millions

When Cinespace Chicago Film Studios was handed a $10 million grant in December by outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration, the studio said it planned to spend more than half of the taxpayer money to buy four buildings near its North Lawndale campus.

Now, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show one of the owners of those buildings is an ex-con who never paid off nearly $4 million in state and federal taxes and fines — including $450,000 resulting from his conviction in a bribery scheme involving a multimillion-dollar CTA fuel contract in the late 1980s.

51. April 24, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Feds seek College of DuPage surveillance videos

Federal authorities have subpoenaed the College of DuPage for video surveillance recordings that could show how administrators reacted to the launch of a sweeping criminal investigation at the embattled school, according to documents made public Friday.

The subpoena, served last week, seeks audio and video recordings from the college’s Student Resource Center on April 13 — the day federal agents served two subpoenas on the community college. The building is home to the school’s financial affairs offices and president Robert Breuder’s suite, among other things.

50. April 24, 2015

Daily Herald: COD faculty wants Breuder placed on immediate leave

The College of DuPage Faculty Association is calling on the board of trustees to place President Robert Breuder on immediate administrative leave “until all the issues related to investigations by state and federal agencies are resolved,” according a resolution approved by the Faculty Senate.

Officials say the union, which represents COD’s 306 full-time faculty members, decided to take action after “weeks of silence and no response to the messages sent to the board of trustees.”

49. April 23, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Former state Rep. Smith sentenced to five months for taking bribe

Former State Rep. Derrick Smith has been sentenced to five months in prison for accepting a $7,000 cash bribe.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman handed Smith the sentence at the end of an emotional sentencing hearing Thursday, telling him that his willingness to pocket the bribe and his half-hearted apology showed, “It’s all about him, not about the people.”

48. April 23, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Editorial – No more secret buyouts

Two years ago, board members who oversaw Metra ousted their executive director but handed him a severance package worth up to $871,000. They tried to keep the details secret.

These deals would be public information under a bill that passed 114-2 last week in the Illinois House.

While the legislation doesn’t go as far as we would like — more on that later — it closes a loophole that has allowed severance packages funded with taxpayer money to be exempt from public inspection. Try to get information about a public employee’s severance package, and you can be denied access to it under the “personnel” exemption of the Freedom of Information Act.

47. April 22, 2015

DNAinfo Chicago: State Rep. Wants Rivals’ Group Audited for Funds It Says It Never Got

On Friday, the Illinois House passed a resolution asking the Illinois Auditor General to look into how the [Kenwood Oakland Community Organization] spent money from the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, a $54 million anti-violence initiative started by then-Gov. Pat Quinn that is now under federal investigation and that critics labeled a “political slush fund.”

The organization’s leaders said at the group’s offices at 4242 S. Cottage Grove Ave. that they’re perplexed by the call for an audit because the organization never received any money from the beleaguered fund and all of its state grants have already been audited twice.

46. April 22, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Alvarez accused of deliberately filing wrong charge against police detective

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez was accused Wednesday of deliberately charging a now-acquitted Chicago Police detective with involuntary manslaughter instead of first-degree murder to “curry favor with” the Fraternal Order of Police.

“To charge that as reckless conduct and not first-degree murder — either you’re doing it because you want to curry favor with the police department or you’re completely inept,” Adam said. “I think there’s no question it was deliberate. She wants to curry favor with the FOP. If you charge first-degree murder, the FOP is mad at her. If you don’t charge anything, the community is upset. So you play the odds. That says you’re thinking about your job, not about what’s right.”

45. April 22, 2015

WBEZ: Lawsuit filed against Chicago police over stop-and-frisk

Chicago Police Department officers have routinely violated the constitutional rights of minority residents who have not committed any crime with stop, question and frisk encounters, a federal lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court on behalf of six African-American residents of Chicago and seeks class-action status. It names the city of Chicago, police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and 14 unnamed officers.

44. April 22, 2015

State Journal-Register: Measure would prevent politicians from promoting programs

Illinois politicians would be barred from promoting new programs or state grants for 60 days before an election under proposed legislation.

Sen. Jason Barickman is targeting programs like the troubled Neighborhood Recovery Initiative which former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration launched within weeks of winning the 2010 election.

43. April 21, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Mihalopoulos – Taxpayers win when firing upheld of clouted city worker

Patrick Slattery ­kept his mouth shut as tightly as a cell door while he was tried, convicted and sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for his role in former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s political machine.

The board’s hearing officer had opined, incredibly, that Slattery deserved to return to work at the city’s Streets and Sanitation Department because, well, pretty much everybody was doing the same thing back in the day.

Fortunately for taxpayers, who want at least a semblance of reform in local government, the city’s Human Resources Board disagreed with its hearing officer. The board members upheld Slattery’s firing a few hours after hearing arguments from his attorney and from a lawyer for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration, which doesn’t want Slattery working at City Hall again.

42. April 21, 2015

Chicago Tribune: CPS suspends SUPES contract that is part of federal probe

Chicago Public Schools leaders said Wednesday they have suspended a $20.5 million professional development contract that’s part of a federal investigation.

In an April 22 letter, interim CPS CEO Jesse Ruiz informed SUPES Academy that the district was suspending the contract “so as not to incur any additional compensable expenses.”

41. April 21, 2015

Department of Justice: Former North Chicago school board member sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for bus contracts fraud scheme

A former North Chicago school board member, and the last defendant of five, was sentenced today to 30 months in federal prison for receiving at least $566,000 in kickbacks from three co-defendants who controlled several different transportation companies that received more than $21 million in student bus contracts over nearly a decade.

The defendant, ALICE SHERROD, 63, of North Chicago, pleaded guilty in September 2013 to one count each of wire fraud and filing a false federal income tax return. Sherrod admitted that between 2001 and 2010 she schemed to deprive the approximately 4,000-student North Chicago Community Unit School District 187 (NCSD) of her honest services. Sherrod, who was the school district’s Director of Transportation, participated in the fraud scheme with four co-defendants, including Gloria Harper, who was the former President of the North Chicago school board.

40. April 20, 2015

CBS Chicago: CPS protesters want mayor to replace entire school board

Chicago Public Schools parents and other education advocates were outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office at City Hall on Monday, demanding he “push the reset button” on his appointed school board, amid an ongoing contract scandal.

Cassie Cresswell, an organizer for the group More Than A Score, said a $20 million no-bid contract at the center of a federal investigation is not the only thing rotten at the Chicago Board of Education. She cited controversial investments by board member Deborah Quazzo in companies doing business with CPS.

39. April 20, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Judge sides with Berrios, tosses Ethics Board lawsuit seeking $10K fine

A Cook County judge has tossed out a lawsuit filed against Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios by the Cook County Board of Ethics last year, which demanded that a judge order Berrios to pay a $10,000 fine for hiring his sister and son to work in his office.

Judge Moshe Jacobius ruled the ethics board exceeded its legal authority in entering the fine against Berrios.

38. April 20, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Editorial – Garth Brooks, Rosemont and your right to know

Now Rosemont wants state lawmakers to weaken the Freedom of Information Act so it can keep those entertainment contracts secret.

Lawmakers, don’t even think about chipping away at the Freedom of Information Act. These venues, built and subsidized by millions of taxpayer dollars, host all sorts of lucrative events. Their business is the public’s business. Those records must remain open for inspection.

37. April 20, 2015

NBC Chicago: Documents reveal Barbara Byrd-Bennett ties to other contractors

Embattled Chicago Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has links to another private education firm which did business with the Chicago Public Schools, and in 2011, auditors in Detroit investigated still another potential conflict with one of the world’s largest textbook companies.

When she was hired as Chicago schools chief three years ago, Byrd-Bennett listed a company called Catapult Learning, where she said she was employed as Senior Advisor for Planning. Last September, Catapult was listed as one of 60 vendors on the receiving end of a three-year agreement to provide professional development services to the Chicago schools at a cost of $66 million. Byrd-Bennett was one of three signatories to that agreement.

36. April 20, 2015

Chicago Tribune: College of DuPage trustees, administrators bill alcohol to foundation

College of DuPage trustees and senior administrators used a separate — and previously undisclosed — account at the campus’ high-end restaurant to charge thousands of dollars in alcohol to a foundation intended to fund student scholarships, a Tribune investigation found.

All totaled, the College of DuPage Foundation, the school’s fundraising arm, spent about $162,000 in donor money at the Waterleaf restaurant since it opened in late 2011. That’s on top of the nearly $190,000 in taxpayer funds spent by college President Robert Breuder and senior managers on their house accounts at Waterleaf in the past three years.

35. April 17, 2015

Chicago Tribune: CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett on leave amid federal probe

Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett is taking a paid leave of absence in the face of a federal investigation that subpoenas show is taking a broad approach in its search for information about the district’s decision to award a $20.5 million no-bid contract.

Chicago Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz, an attorney and former chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education, was appointed interim CEO. Ruiz and school board President David Vitale were among officials that voted 6-0 in 2013 to approve a contract to the SUPES Academy training organization that is at the heart the federal inquiry.

34. April 17, 2015

Chicago Tribune: College of DuPage backers with exclusive deals rake in millions

Officials at the College of DuPage have a long list of items to turn over to federal investigators by next week, including a trove of documents related to contracts with companies tied to board members for the school’s fundraising foundation.

Here’s what those records will show: Nearly half of the College of DuPage Foundation’s 22 most recent board members are executives at companies doing business with the publicly funded school, and many of those companies have been awarded jobs without going through a competitive selection process, according to a Tribune investigation.

33. April 17, 2015

CBS Chicago: County rapped after using public resources for private agency’s move

The public resources benefited the Community and Economic Development Association, also known as CEDA, a financially troubled not-for-profit that provides a variety of services, from education to energy-saving resources.

CBS 2 surveillance cameras rolled as Cook County trucks and employees went to work over two days hauling big pallets of boxes. Taxpayer dollars were used to move the CEDA offices.

CEDA provides a variety of services to more than 500,000 people in Cook County, but it is not a county agency. County resources, including personnel, can only be used for official business.

32. April 16, 2015

ABC Chicago: CPS investigation comes at politically sensitive time

The federal investigation into a no-bid contract between Chicago Public Schools and SUPES Academy comes at a crucial time for the school district.

From a political standpoint the timing of this news is crucial. Not only does the story break one week after the city election, it complicates the Chicago Public Schools’ desperate effort to get financial help from Springfield.

31. April 16, 2015

CBS Chicago: CPS critics – school officials ignored red flags over no-bid contract

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett has a relationship with the company, and its founder, Gary Solomon, that goes back many years.

Sources say Byrd Bennett claimed no other contractor in the country could do the training SUPES Academy would supply. That was the justification for not putting the deal out for competitive bids.

In fact, education departments at Loyola and the University of Illinois-Chicago are already involved in training and coaching CPS principals.

30. April 16, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: PACE official took $280K in kickbacks, feds say

A PACE manager took more than $280,000 in kickbacks after using his position to land work for IT contractors at the suburban bus agency, federal authorities said Thursday.

Rajinder Sachdeva, 51, of Schaumburg, was arrested Wednesday in the northwest suburb where he lives. U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox set his bail at $150,000 during a hearing Thursday afternoon.

29. April 16, 2015

NBC Chicago: Reports reveal elaborate spending up until Schock’s resignation

Former Rep. Aaron Schock may be out of office, but he still has to explain himself to the Federal Election Commission. And the quarterly report filed for his election committee, shows that big money was flying in and out of the congressman’s account, to the very end.

An examination by NBC5 Investigates shows the former 18th District congressman spent more than $42,000 on travel expenses, most of it on airfare, with one notable $4,000 stay at the swank White Elephant Hotel in Nantucket. The congressman dropped another $3,407 for gift bowls at Tiffany’s, and more than $3,000 at Garrett’s Popcorn. The federal records indicate that his American Express bills topped more than $75,000.

28. April 16, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Editorial – Who was watching at CPS?

As the Tribune and other news outlets reported this week, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is under federal investigation in connection with a $20.5 million no-bid contract that CPS awarded to her former employer. Byrd-Bennett hasn’t been charged with anything. We don’t know yet if she did anything wrong.

In June 2013, one month after the Chicago Board of Education decided to close nearly 50 schools and cut programs, it voted to spend $20.5 million on principal training sessions. Though the board faced a $1 billion deficit, it awarded the contract to SUPES Academy without a bidding process to determine the best price for the training service. SUPES Academy certainly isn’t the only organization qualified to provide this training.

27. April 15, 2015

Daily Herald: Farnham’s state pension stripped after child porn conviction

Former state Rep. Keith Farnham was stripped of his state pension today because the child pornography he was convicted of having was found on his state computer.

Farnham was sentenced to eight years in federal prison last month, which triggered a suspension of his more than $1,200 monthly benefit.

26. April 15, 2015

Chicago Tribune: College of DuPage under federal investigation

In a sign of intensifying scrutiny of the College of DuPage, federal prosecutors have opened a wide-ranging criminal investigation at the embattled community college, issuing two subpoenas this week that seek documents tied to spending and other matters, according to records obtained late Wednesday.

The subpoenas, which were served to college administrators Monday, cover three main areas: administrator expenses, contracts with the college’s fundraising foundation and credits awarded to police recruits at a law enforcement academy on the Glen Ellyn campus.

25. April 15, 2015

Catalyst Chicago: Feds investigating $20 million SUPES contract, Byrd-Bennett ties

Federal authorities are investigating a “matter” at CPS that sources tell Catalyst Chicago involves CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the $20 million no-bid contract given to SUPES Academy.

The CPS inspector general has been investigating Byrd-Bennett and the controversial SUPES contract since 2013. Inspector General Nick Schuler declined to comment Wednesday on whether the investigation is ongoing or on the inquiries from the federal government.

24. April 15, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Aaron Schock donor sues ex-congressman, alleges fraud

A Chicago lawyer who in 2012 donated $500 to then-Congressman Aaron Schock filed a lawsuit Wednesday that accuses Schock of racketeering and fraud.

Howard Foster’s lawsuit against Schock, a Republican from Peoria who resigned his post March 31 and is under federal investigation, says Foster was misled in giving money to the onetime rising star.

23. April 14, 2015

Department of Justice: Former Moecherville Water District board president charged with allegedly stealing water district funds

A former Moecherville Water District (MWD) board president appeared in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois today on federal charges for allegedly stealing $33,597 in property mortgaged and pledged to the Secretary of Agriculture acting through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development (USDA-RD), over the course of three months.

22. April 14, 2015

Crain’s Chicago: Guardian sues for Homan Square ‘black site’ records

After agreeing to turn over to the Guardian a report related to interrogation practices at Homan Square, the Chicago Police Department has balked amid a review by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office, according to a complaint filed by the news outlet seeking records about the alleged unofficial detention center.

In a series of articles beginning on Election Day, Feb. 2, the New York-based online subsidiary of the London newspaper identified 11 people held outside of normal booking procedures at the Homan Square facility. Those people were shackled for long periods of time and questioned, and some were subjected to physical abuse, the Guardian says.

21. April 14, 2015

ABC I-Team: Screws turn on Aaron Schock as replacement election set

The surprise resignation of Congressman Aaron Schock now results in two election dates being set for the 18th district: a primary shortly after independence day on July 7 and then the general election between the Republican and Democratic candidates for Schock’s suddenly-vacant seat.

Tuesday night, a U.S. grand jury seated here at the federal courthouse in Springfield, has already begun examining evidence of possible financial misconduct by Schock with of his top aides being subpoenaed to testify. According to the house clerk today his Chief of Staff Mark Roman, along with the manager of his Peoria district office, district chief of staff and executive assistant all notified House officials of the federal subpoenas. That quartet of witnesses is in addition to a federal subpoena already delivered to former communications director Ben Cole.

20. April 14, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Ex-Chicago City Hall clerk pleads guilty to embezzling nearly $750,000

A former low-level City Hall clerk who embezzled nearly $750,000 in Chicago permit fees faces up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to theft and tax evasion charges.

Antionette Chenier, 51, deposited hundreds of checks, most of them payable to the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, into a personal account she had set up called “OEMC Chenier,” prosecutors have said.

19. April 14, 2015

CBS Chicago: Emanuel agrees to $5.5 million police torture reparations fund

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has thrown his support behind a proposal to provide $5.5 million in reparations to dozens of victims of police torture at the hands of former police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his detectives, in an effort to provide closure on a scandal that has plagued the city for decades.

The agreement on a reparations ordinance came as aldermen held the first public hearing on a proposed financial restitution fund for torture victims. A group of aldermen had been seeking a fund of $20 million in reparations for torture victims and their families.

18. April 13, 2015

NBC Chicago: City Council committee OKs settlement in Koschman death

The Chicago City Council’s Finance Committee on Monday signed off on a plan to pay $250,000 to settle a lawsuit accusing police and prosecutors of a cover-up in the death of a man after he got in a fight with a nephew of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Nanci Koschman filed the lawsuit in March of last year. It accuses police of concealing information and creating false evidence to protect Daley’s nephew, Richard Vanecko.

17. April 12, 2015

Daily Herald: Editorial – Rauner’s challenge to believe in an Illinois without corruption

We don’t quibble with his basic premise that while we have many government employees and elected officials who are good people, the structure of government in Illinois – responsive to insiders and special interests rather than the people – is fundamentally, pervasively and sadly corrupt.

But here’s something else to remember. The tightest hold corruption has over us is our sense that that’s the way it is, that there is nothing any of us can do about it.

16. April 11, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Crooked couple’s sweet UIC deal

A clout-heavy couple convicted of stealing more than $3 million in state grant money to support a lavish lifestyle of yacht-club memberships, luxury cars and vacation homes also had a sweetheart deal with the University of Illinois at Chicago that reaped them hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.

A business owned by Leon Dingle Jr. and his wife, Karin Dingle, leased out a portion of a small, one-story building they owned on the West Side to UIC for storage. They collected nearly $700,000 in rent over seven years from the state university — more than twice the $310,000 they paid for the entire building, university and property records show.

15. April 10, 2015

Pantagraph: Trial delayed for BPD officer accused of writing false tickets

The trial of a former Bloomington police officer accused of writing phony traffic tickets has been delayed at least a month while the state asks the Illinois Supreme Court to review a judge’s ruling.

Brent VanHoveln is charged with forgery and official misconduct after authorities said he wrote several false traffic citations to meet a requirement, or quota, for the department. The 19-year veteran was fired in May and criminal charges were filed in June.

14. April 9, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Longtime city worker accused of stealing $750,000

A low-level clerk in City Hall embezzled almost $750,000 in permit fees over five and a half years without raising any alarms by depositing hundreds of checks payable to the city in business and personal bank accounts she controlled, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Antionette Chenier, a city employee since 1990, was caught only after Charter One Bank officials noticed unusual activity in the business account in January and confronted her.

13. April 9, 2015

State Journal-Register: Marshall County sends Aaron Schock a bill for special election costs

The Marshall County Board wants former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock to pay the $76,000 in unbudgeted county costs for special elections to fill the 18th Congressional District seat he abandoned.

The board voted unanimously Thursday to send the Peoria Republican a letter requesting the reimbursement. Schock resigned last month following controversy over his use of taxpayer and campaign funds.

12. April 9, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Lawsuit demands information on use of covert cellphone trackers in Cook County criminal cases

Cook County prosecutors are being sued to provide records of criminal cases that have involved the use of covert cellphone tracking systems — devices that have drawn the scrutiny of the U.S. Senate and privacy activists.

Freddy Martinez, a Chicago-area resident in the software industry, brought the lawsuit Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court, saying the state’s attorney’s office didn’t respond to his efforts to obtain the information through the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

11. April 9, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Trial to begin Thursday for Chicago police detective in fatal shooting

With a national debate raging over police use of force, a rare event takes place Thursday at Cook County’s main criminal courthouse: the trial of a white Chicago police detective on charges he fatally shot an innocent black woman in an off-duty incident.

Prosecutors charged that Dante Servin acted recklessly in March 2012 by firing five shots over his left shoulder from inside his car into a West Side alley occupied by at least four people.

10. April 8, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Editorial – A clean slate for the College of DuPage

The Clean Slate — Deanne Mazzochi of Elmhurst, Frank Napolitano of Bloomingdale and Charles Bernstein of Wheaton — finished 1-2-3 out of 12 candidates on Tuesday’s ballot. Along with incumbent Kathy Hamilton of Hinsdale, who wasn’t up for re-election, they’ll form a new majority on the board.

They’ve pledged to support a state performance audit of college finances and to make sure the school cooperates fully in investigations by DuPage County prosecutors, an Illinois Senate subcommittee and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

9. April 8, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Editorial – Judge rules in favor of fair trials

Hidden police files and secret deals with witnesses have been a common thread in many of the wrongful convictions that have come to light in Illinois in recent years.

So it was encouraging to see U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly take a strong stand against both this week in the case of Nathson Fields, a former death row inmate who is suing the city because a Chicago cop withheld or fabricated evidence against him.

8. April 8, 2015

Daily Herald: Reformers’ election means new balance of power on COD board

Tuesday’s clean sweep of the College of DuPage board of trustees race by the three candidates supported by Trustee Kathy Hamilton has reversed the balance of power on the board that oversees the embattled schoool.

The election of “Clean Slate” running mates Deanne Mazzochi of Elmhurst, Frank Napolitano of Bloomingdale and Charles Bernstein of Wheaton means that Hamilton — a vocal critic of school President Robert Breuder — will no longer be the lone voice on many issues.

7. April 7, 2015

Daily Herald: Rauner – Illinois Supreme Court part of a ‘corrupt system’

Gov. Bruce Rauner said Tuesday the Illinois Supreme Court is a part of a “corrupt system” because justices can get campaign donations from attorneys who argue before the court.

Rauner told the Daily Herald editorial board he’s working toward a different pension plan that seeks to break what he calls a “corrupt bargain” between union leaders and politicians who can get campaign money from them.

6. April 7, 2015

State Journal-Register: Our opinion – Troubled justice system needs innocence watchdogs

The growing number of exonerations nationwide is evidence that organizations like the Illinois Innocence Project are, and will continue to be, a critical part of a justice system that clearly is fallible.

The efforts of the Illinois Innocence Project, a mostly volunteer operation that operates out of the University of Illinois Springfield, should be championed by everyone who believes in fairness and justice for all.

5. April 6, 2015

Peoria Journal Star: Ex-Rep. Aaron Schock aides face questions over mileage payments

Schock resigned March 31 after six weeks of questions about his spending habits, including payments for miles driven that appear to be far in excess of miles recorded on his personal vehicle. But campaign finance documents show a top campaign aide also received a mileage payment late last year worth far more than any of the other 11 reimbursements she received in the prior 14 months.

The political director of Schock for Congress, Karen McDonald Haney, received a payment of $4,755.40 on Dec. 20, 2014, labeled “mileage reimbursement” on campaign finance forms filed with the Federal Election Commission.

4. April 3, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Fixes to residential treatment on the way in Illinois, but budget woes loom

State officials and child advocates have begun the difficult, deliberate work of revamping Illinois’ child welfare system following reports late last year that young state wards were assaulted, raped and lured into prostitution at taxpayer-financed residential treatment facilities.

Illinois’ largest child welfare association on Thursday unveiled a package of proposals that included boosting pay and training for front-line facility workers. A court-sanctioned team of independent monitors this week inspected some of the centers and plans a half-dozen additional visits next week. And the state Department of Children and Family Services has identified nearly 140 youths who should be moved out of the facilities and into less restrictive settings.

3. April 2, 2015

Chicago Tribune: DCFS late in probing more than 300 child abuse, neglect claims: audit

A new report released Thursday detailed additional problems at the state’s troubled Department of Children and Family Services that could “result in further endangerment” of the children the agency is charged with protecting.

The report from Illinois Auditor General William Holland found that the agency failed to investigate in a timely manner more than 300 allegations of child abuse and neglect in fiscal years 2013 and 2014. While the number of reports represented less than 1 percent of total cases, the finding was compounded by the department’s untimely determinations of abuse and neglect in 6 percent of those cases.

2. April 1, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Clouted family ‘upset’ by teen’s paid internship in Rutherford’s office, lawsuit alleges

The allegation is part of the latest salvo from a former aide to Rutherford, Edmund Michalowski, who last year torpedoed Rutherford’s gubernatorial ambitions by filing a lawsuit that accused the former treasurer of sexual harassment.

Neither the boy nor the parent is identified in the lawsuit. But the Chicago Sun-Times reported in July 2014 that a 16-year-old member of the billionaire Pritzker family received an internship in the summer of 2011, a year after one of his direct relations donated $50,000 to Rutherford’s campaign fund.

1. April 1, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Editorial – It’s time to clean house at the College of DuPage

Months of Tribune headlines apparently caught the attention of law enforcement. The Tribune reported this week that the DuPage County state’s attorney’s office has opened an investigation. A grand jury has issued three subpoenas “seeking records related to President Robert Breuder’s contract, his expenses and no-bid jobs awarded to a school fundraiser …”

Voters have a chance Tuesday to oust two COD board members and send an explicit message to the rest. One of them, just one, Kathy Hamilton, tried to put a stop to this nonsense. The rest should go away.

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