Corruption Watch: January 2015

Shawn Tonge

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

February 11, 2015

Corruption Watch: January 2015

The start of a new year always comes with resolutions for improvement, but only time will tell if they translate into effective action.

The start of a new year always comes with resolutions for improvement.

Amidst a high number of corruption-related stories in January, there was also a great deal of talk about reform. Over a dozen of the 76 articles featured in the January edition of Corruption Watch focus on efforts to change government for the better.

After taking office, Gov. Bruce Rauner issued several executive orders aimed at increasing transparency and curbing abuses of power. Under one of the orders, the salaries of many government employees on the city and county levels must be made available online.

The new governor also set rules requiring more disclosure regarding the financial interests of state employees. Another executive order banned state employees from entering the lobbying field for a full year after leaving their positions.

One issue that sparked conversation about reform this month is the scandal-ridden red-light camera system in Chicago.

Chicago aldermen Anthony Beale and Tom Tunney have created a plan that would set heavy restrictions on the placement of traffic-enforcement cameras. Under the proposed plan, the city would have to conduct community hearings, seek city council approval and demonstrate the benefit of a traffic camera with a safety study before installation.

Other state officials, including several mayoral candidates, want to go a step further by repealing the system altogether. One lawmaker, Rep. David McSweeney, has even filed legislation to outlaw red-light and speed cameras in Chicago.

With a new administration in charge, Illinoisans are sure to see more changes moving forward. Everyone’s talking about improving government programs and agencies, but only time will tell if that translates into action.

 76. Jan. 30, 2015

Daily Herald: Editorial: Let’s keep contracts out in the open

Rosemont has gotten a lot of publicity lately, but it isn’t the only town that would prefer not to disclose financial information regarding its entertainment and convention business.

But the bottom lines remains these are publicly-owned facilities, with all the attendant benefits and responsibilities. The public has a right to assess whether its representatives make good decisions with public money.

 75. Jan. 29, 2015

Crain’s Chicago: City has yet to turn over e-mails regarding missing money in the 25th Ward

With the aldermanic elections just one month away, the city has yet to turn over e-mails that could potentially explain why $140,000 has been unaccounted for in the 25th Ward.

In 2013, the 25th Ward office budgeted $140,000 for public art projects within the ward. Artists who were promised money out of those funds have yet to be paid for their work, and 25th Ward alderman Danny Solis has not been able to explain where the money went.

In August, the Reader requested all e-mail exchanges (beginning in 2012) between ward spokeswoman Lauren Pacheco and the City of Chicago regarding the 25th Ward’s Art in Public Places initiative. At the time, the city’s budget office released 12 pages of heavily redacted e-mails and denied requests for additional e-mails.

 74. Jan. 29, 2015

ABC Chicago: Rahm Emanuel’s motorcade caught running red lights – again

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s motorcade was caught running red lights – again.

The city’s website shows Rahm Emanuel’s motorcade racked up five more red light violations since November, after the mayor said last May that “no one is above the law.” On Thursday, as he answered questions about the citations, he defended red light cameras.

 73. Jan. 29, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Emanuel embraces countdown clocks at red-light camera intersections

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday embraced a costly plan to mandate countdown signals at every one of Chicago’s 174 red-light camera intersections and vowed to pay five more tickets issued to his own motorcade for running red lights.

Unlike his mayoral challengers, who want to scrap red-light cameras altogether to appease angry motorists, Emanuel said he’s determined to keep the cameras in place, but “reform” the system.

72. Jan. 28, 2015

Better Government Association: Suburban Taxpayers Subsidize Mayor’s Luxury Auto

Taxpayers are still helping underwrite Serpico’s auto expenses: He recently started accepting a $500-a-month stipend from the village to help cover the cost of the Jaguar, the Better Government Association and FOX 32 learned.

Serpico, who works as a private attorney in addition to serving as the $100,000-a-year mayor/liquor commissioner of the working-class western suburb, was unapologetic.

71. Jan. 28, 2015

The Pantagraph: Ex-Illinois township supervisor gets probation for thefts

A federal judge has sentenced a former eastern Illinois township supervisor to probation for stealing more than $60,000 from the township and using the money to gamble.

The (Kankakee) Daily Journal reports 36-year-old Leon Eddie Monday (sic) of St. Anne was sentenced to three years of probation and must repay the money he took from Pembroke Township.

Mondy pleaded guilty last year to one count of wire fraud. Prosecutors say he admitted taking the money when he was township supervisor and spending it on gambling.

 70. Jan. 28, 2015

DNAInfo: Candidates Take Aim at Smith’s $84,000 Consulting Gig

Smith’s $84,000 consulting gig in 2013 was with the Helen Coburn Meier and Tim Meier Charitable Foundation for the Arts, a foundation run by a donor who has contributed more than $367,800 to Smith’s campaigns since 2006.

The Sun-Times first reported that the Wilmette-based arts foundation spent nearly half of its 2013 total fundraising efforts of $150,000 on Smith’s services as a consultant.

 69. Jan. 28, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Center for troubled girls will close, cites decision by DCFS

A prominent but troubled residential facility for youths is closing following Tribune reports that children inside the Rockford center were assaulted and lured into prostitution.

The 59-bed, all-girls Rock River Academy issued a statement Wednesday saying it was forced to shut down after the state Department of Children and Family Services unfairly stopped placing juvenile wards in the facility last month.

68. Jan. 28, 2015

Tribune: College of DuPage revote on president’s buyout follows years of secrecy

When College of DuPage trustees meet Wednesday to vote again on President Robert Breuder’s controversial buyout package, years of secrecy surrounding Breuder’s contract will come to a head.

The unusual do-over, required because of an unspecified “procedural” error, comes less than a week after the board approved a $763,000 severance deal for Breuder, which sparked widespread criticism over the amount of the agreement and the lack of transparency at the publicly funded community college.

Indeed, records show that, over the past six years, trustees repeatedly have granted Breuder contract extensions and additional perks without public notice or discussion, deals that could have been challenged under state open meetings laws if they had been discovered in time.

67. Jan. 28, 2015

Tribune: Troubled youth center closing following Tribune reports of abuse

A prominent but troubled Rockford residential facility for youths is closing following Tribune reports that children inside the center were assaulted and lured into prostitution.

The 59-bed, all-girls Rock River Academy told the Tribune in a written statement Wednesday that it is voluntarily terminating its contract with the state Department of Children and Family Services, which stopped sending juvenile wards to the facility in December following the Tribune reports.

66. Jan. 27, 2015

Better Government Association: Harvey Mayor Settles Up

Mayor of troubled south suburb pays elections board $72,750 for alleged campaign-finance violations – meaning he’ll now be able to appear on the ballot this spring. But where’d that money come from?

Kellogg had just under $4,000 in his campaign fund as of Dec. 31, records show.

If that figure is correct he would’ve had to raise a lot of money in a short time, use personal savings to pay the fines or find some other way to stir up that kind of cash.

65. Jan. 27, 2015

Daily Herald: COD to vote again on Breuder $762,000 severance package

College of DuPage trustees are expected to take another vote Wednesday on a controversial $762,000 buyout package for the school’s president, which has prompted a government watchdog group to urge officials to reject the severance deal this time around.

The college’s board voted 6-1 Thursday to accept the four-page agreement regarding the early retirement of President Robert Breuder. The deal calls for Breuder to be paid nearly three times his base salary when he retires on March 31, 2016 — roughly three years before his existing contract was set to expire.

 64. Jan. 27, 2015

Sun-Times: ‘Quit, Quazzo, quit’: Protesters demand school board member resign

“Quit, Quazzo, quit,” about 30 protesters chanted outside the office building of Chicago Board of Education member Deborah Quazzo Tuesday morning, denouncing the mayor’s handpicked choice as a choice example of why they say Chicago needs an elected school board.

In the wake of Chicago Sun-Times stories that showed Chicago Public Schools spending on companies in which Quazzo has invested tripling since her appointment, groups like Action Now, More Than A Score and the Chicago Teachers Union demanded that the venture capitalist step down from the board overseeing the city’s public schools.

 63. Jan. 26, 2015

Better Government Association: Lynwood Fires Cop Who Threw Punch

South suburban police department knew for months about incident in which cop roughed up suspect, but disciplinary proceedings weren’t initiated until after repeated inquiries from BGA/CBS2.

That BGA/CBS2 report also noted initial police records didn’t mention that Fredericksen punched Holmes – though a supplementary report written after the BGA and CBS2 requested copies of the records does, suggesting there was an effort in Lynwood to hide what occurred.

 62. Jan. 26, 2015

Sun-Times: Sneed – Quinn punted on pot because of close ties with lobbyists

Sneed hears rumbles that former Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision not to issue medical pot licenses in the waning hours of his term in office was driven by the list of politically connected lobbyists affiliated with the pot picks.

“I’m told Quinn, a true populist, feared the perception of any wrongdoing or favoritism — when he saw the list of highly paid lobbyists he knew repping the winning applicants,” said a top Sneed source familiar with the pot applicant process.

 61. Jan. 26, 2015

Fox Chicago: Frerichs announces firm will review Treasurer’s office

Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs says he’s bringing in a consulting firm to conduct a performance review of how his office handles its books.

Frerichs said Monday that Plante Moran would be brought in to examine the office’s accounting, budgeting and cash management to improve efficiency and reduce costs. He says Plante Moran is running the review at no cost to the state.

Frerichs, a Democrat, has refused to release a report about allegations against his predecessor, Republican Dan Rutherford.

 60. Jan. 26, 2015

The Pantagrah: Ogle County audit seeks whereabouts of missing towing fees

An internal audit is underway in a northern Illinois county into almost $11,000 that’s unaccounted for from a sheriff’s department towing fund.

The investigation began after a forensic auditor could not account for the money in the county’s administrative tow fund. The fund was controlled by ex-Sheriff Michael Harn.

The forensic audit also found that about $61,000 in fees were not deposited in the county’s general fund as required.

 59. Jan. 25, 2015

Sun-Times: Council should OK new effort to merge IG offices

For too long, an ordinance to combine the City Council and Chicago inspector general offices into one more effective unit has been bottled up in committee.

Last week, a new version of the ordinance was introduced that strengthens the firewall between the mayor and the inspector general who will head the combined offices. The Council should approve it.

 58. Jan. 25, 2015

Sun-Times: Watchdogs – Rahm Emanuel’s fundraising nears $30 million

Early last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel helped out developer Dan McCaffery by backing McCaffery’s controversial plan to transform the former Children’s Memorial Hospital site in Lincoln Park into apartments, condos and stores.

After the Chicago City Council approved the project in April 2014, McCaffery, his wife and an executive with his McCaffery Interests development company contributed $65,900 to the mayor’s campaign fund between June 30 and Nov. 24.

It’s not the only time Emanuel has gotten campaign contributions from people who have benefited from actions he or city agencies or pension funds have taken, according to a Chicago Sun-Times examination of the nearly $30 million amassed so far by: the mayor’s campaign committee; a second campaign fund he controls; and a super PAC that supports Emanuel and aldermanic candidates he backs.

 57. Jan. 25, 2015

Sun-Times: Ex-prosecutor’s 2012 arrest doesn’t deter her from seeking county job

Sarah Naughton left her job as a prosecutor after an off-duty run-in with police that included her berating and allegedly swatting at a cop.

But that widely publicized episode hasn’t discouraged the politically connected lawyer from trying to get back on the public payroll — in a job working with law enforcement officers.

56. Jan. 23, 2015

Northwest Herald: Effort to get Obama library draws Chicago-style suspicions

Chicago’s rush to secure space in a public park for Barack Obama’s presidential library has unleashed a tussle typical of the president’s hometown – loud, contentious and full of suspicions about backroom deals and personal politics as tangled as the ivy at Wrigley Field.

The strong ties between City Hall, the Obama administration and the school where the president once taught and his wife once worked have raised suspicions that the selection has long been a done deal.

“The big guys – the mayor, the university and the president – they’re all together,” said Robin Kaufman, an opponent of the plan who showed up at a public hearing on the parkland transfer.

55. Jan. 23, 2015

Tribune: Justice Department explores taking action on violent Illinois youth centers

Illinois’ troubled residential treatment centers for children and teens are drawing the attention of federal authorities after the Tribune documented hundreds of rape and assault allegations and found that state officials kept sending juvenile wards to the most violent facilities.

The Justice Department is exploring whether to intervene in Illinois to ensure the safety of youths at the centers and to improve services for disadvantaged children with mental health problems, according to three people familiar with the matter who described the ongoing discussions on condition that they not be identified.

54. Jan. 23, 2015

Daily Herald: COD board says yes to $762,000 Breuder severance deal

College of DuPage President Robert Breuder is due to receive a $762,000 buyout package when he retires in 2016 under terms of a four-page agreement approved Thursday by the college’s board of trustees.

Breuder, the college’s president since Jan. 2009, will be paid nearly three times his base salary when he retires March 31, 2016. His last contract had him working into 2019, but he said in a letter to the board, “With age comes the inevitable reality that time is precious.”

 53. Jan. 22, 2015

Courier-News: Kane County committee questions usefulness of Aurora Election Commission

A resolution detailing how and when Kane County pays its share to the Aurora Election Commission passed a county committee but raised questions about whether such a commission is needed.

The discussion focused on why the Election Commission exists and whether it is something that should be changed. Public Service Committee members decided to explore the idea of creating a subcommittee to research changing the Election Commission.

 52. Jan. 22, 2015

Sun-Times: Let’s green-light red light camera reforms

Drivers suspect the city is more interested in their wallets than in their safety, and there is evidence compiled by the Chicago Tribune that while the cameras have reduced the number of right-angle crashes, they have increased the number of rear-end crashes.

Now two Chicago aldermen have come forward with several smart reforms to the red-light camera program. The changes they propose could make the program more effective, reducing the number of crashes of all kinds, and give skeptical Chicagoans reason to believe the whole thing isn’t just a moneymaker.

51. Jan. 22, 2015

Tribune: GOP lawmaker proposes statewide ban on red light cameras

A Republican state lawmaker filed legislation to outlaw traffic enforcement cameras statewide in the wake of a Tribune investigation into Chicago’s controversial red light program, but it faces an uncertain future in a legislature controlled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Democratic allies.

Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican and longtime camera opponent, cited the Tribune’s recent investigation showing the Chicago program failed to deliver on longtime safety claims.

50. Jan. 21, 2015

CBS 2: Aldermen Propose Having Hearings Prior To Each Placement Of New Red Light Camera

Aldermen Tony Beale and Tom Tunney have introduced an ordinance that would require any new red light cameras to have a hearing on why they are needed and approved by the City Council.

Tunney says the cameras would have to have a pedestrian countdown for the green light and yellow lights more than three seconds long.

49. Jan. 21, 2015

Tribune: Aldermen call for red light camera standards

City officials would have to hold community meetings and provide evidence red light ticket cameras would make specific intersections safer before they could install the devices going forward under a plan that also would establish standard lengths for yellow lights across Chicago.

The move comes after the Chicago Tribune reported last fall that the Emanuel administration quietly issued a new, shorter yellow light standard when the city began the transition from red light camera vendor Redflex Traffic Systems to Xerox State & Local Solutions in February 2014. The switch to a 2.9-second yellow came after the city had long set the standard length for yellow lights at three seconds.

 48. Jan. 21, 2015

Sun-Times: Fioretti wants to rein in lobbyists for ethics reform

Mayoral challenger Bob Fioretti has said he’s tired of having to elbow lobbyists on his way to the City Council floor. He’s equally tired of their extraordinary influence on legislative business.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Fioretti (2nd) tried to to out-maneuver Mayor Rahm Emanuel on the subject of ethics reform so important to capturing the independent vote — by introducing the latest in a parade of ethics ordinances.

Fioretti’s version would preclude lobbying activity during Council meetings and prohibit elected officials from lobbying Council members on behalf of their “paying clients.”

47. January 20, 2015

Sun-Times: Willie Wilson autobiography no political coverup

In the political context, the book is even more extraordinary for putting a lot of unflattering information about Wilson into the public record that probably wouldn’t have come up otherwise.

Such as the time he escorted his live-in girlfriend out of his house at gunpoint after he caught her cheating on him yet again. Wilson says he unloaded the weapon before waving it at her after realizing his anger and a loaded gun were not a good mix. He now has a concealed-carry permit.

 46. Jan. 20, 2015

State Register-Journal: Frerichs won’t disclose sex harassment report on Rutherford

Newly inaugurated Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs refused Tuesday to release a report about sexual harassment allegations against his predecessor, pointing to ongoing legal action.

Frerichs, a Democrat and former state senator who said during his campaign that he wanted to release the investigation into the charges against ex-Treasurer Dan Rutherford, denied a request from The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act filed Jan. 12, the day he took office.

45. Jan. 20, 2015

Crain’s Chicago: Chicago police to begin using body cameras

With relations between police and minority communities increasingly volatile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is announcing today that the city will begin using body cameras to keep track of sometimes contentious interactions.

Fioretti isn’t impressed. From a statement:

“There’s nothing 2.0 about this proposal. We all favor body cameras and I’ve been talking about wrap- around services since Emanuel started cutting them four years ago. Chicago is ready for a new direction and I have laid out a holistic approach to making our streets safe and neighborhoods strong.”

44. Jan. 19, 2015

Sun-Times: Taunts aside, Burge torture victims deserve compensation

The activists are struggling to uncork an ordinance bottled up in committee since 2013 that would create a $20 million reparations fund for men tortured by Former Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his Midnight Crew. Cannon, who spent 24 years in prison, was one of the men who was tortured.

We don’t know if $20 million is the right number, and reducing the issue to a taunt during a local election trivializes the matter. But the need for reparations is clear. While some men have received hefty payouts, others got little or nothing because time had run out to file a lawsuit or for other technical reasons. Cannon accepted a $3,000 settlement in 1984, when little was known of the police torture and a larger settlement seemed unlikely.

43. Jan. 19, 2015

Sun-Times: Sergeants Association plans lawsuit to force mayor to hold lieutenants exam

The Chicago Police Sergeants Association intends to file a lawsuit this week seeking to compel Mayor Rahm Emanuel to hold a lieutenants exam that they suspect he is delaying because the sergeants endorsed Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) for mayor.

The lawsuit will accuse Emanuel of violating a 2012 agreement to schedule the lieutenant’s exam as soon as possible.

42. Jan. 19, 2015

Sun-Times: Movie studio boss pays off $20K debt to City Hall after Sun-Times inquiries

When Mayor Rahm Emanuel kicked off his re-election campaign last month, he stood amid the backdrop of Cinespace Chicago Film Studios and boasted that the former steel mill where NBC’s “Chicago Fire” and “tons of TV shows and movies” are filmed is “bringing good jobs and opportunity to hundreds of Chicagoans.”

What Emanuel didn’t say: Alex Pissios, the studio’s president, owed City Hall $19,901 at the time of the mayor’s Dec. 6 campaign kickoff on a Cinespace stage emblazoned with Chicago flags.

But the northwest suburban man didn’t pay off the $19,901 debt until the beginning of January — weeks after the Chicago Sun-Times began asking city officials about 21 lawsuits Emanuel’s law department has filed against him over unpaid taxes and building-code violations.

During the time Emanuel’s administration was suing Pissios, the film studio he now heads was getting millions of dollars from state taxpayers.

41. Jan. 17, 2015

Crain’s Chicago: Rauner’s real task as governor is this: Ending corruption

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s most pressing challenge is resolving the state’s fiscal crisis, but his most important long-term goal is stamping out the corruption that corrodes Illinois government.

40. Jan. 16, 2015

Tribune: Annual bonus to Tinley Park officials an unusual perk among suburbs

Zabrocki and other officials in the southwest suburb are compensated with longevity pay, getting a 2 percent increase to their base salaries for every year they have served in office, after the first eight.

While Tinley Park residents recently voted in term limits, the village’s obscure longevity pay ordinance has for a decade offered a financial incentive for its elected officials to stay in office, costing the village hundreds of thousands of dollars since it was instituted.

39. Jan. 15, 2015

Pantagraph: BPD officer received reprimand for racial comment

A Bloomington police sergeant received a written reprimand in 2013 after he was recorded on an in-car police camera saying he hoped a black stabbing victim “bleeds to death.”

According to a document obtained Wednesday by The Pantagraph through a Freedom of Information Act request, Edward Shumaker received the reprimand following a Sept. 4, 2013, meeting with R.T. Finney, who was then interim police chief, and Assistant Police Chief Clay Wheeler.

38. Jan. 15, 2015

Daily Herald: Rauner orders posting local government salaries online

Back in 2012, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation that called for salaries of most county, township and city workers to be put on a website that already displays similar information for most state workers.

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday used on of the executive orders of his infant administration to get the process moving.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration never implemented the law, arguing it didn’t have to because it wasn’t given the money to follow through.

37. Jan. 15, 2015

Illinois News Network: State still trying to fire corrections official for second time

State officials still want to fire a man with a troubled work history, criminal convictions and a history of street gang affiliations from his $111,432-a-year job in the Illinois system.

But a state arbitrator has ruled Xadrian McCraven deserves his job back. Why he ruled that way remains a bit of a mystery.

Tom Shaer, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Corrections, said the agency couldn’t release its copy of the decision because the matter remains under appeal. And Anders Lindall, spokesman for the union representing McCraven did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

36. Jan. 15, 2015

Sun-Times: UIC chancellor gets nearly $100,000 bonus on way out the door

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees voted Thursday to grant Allen-Meares a $98,440 bonus within 30 days to reward her for meeting goals spelled out in her employment agreement.

However, in August, the UIC faculty senate had a vote of no confidence in Allen-Meares’ leadership, criticizing her for changing several administrative leaders, including the provost, without telling them, faculty members said. She also caught media attention for living in a university-paid house that UIC spent $1 million to upgrade and maintain. Also during her tenure, the UIC faculty voted to form a union and went on strike for two days to press their grievances.

35. Jan. 15, 2015

Sun-Times: Ald. Arena sued for battery; staff says suit ‘motivated by politics’

A woman sued Ald. John Arena (45th) on Wednesday, accusing the Northwest Side alderman of cursing at her, striking her and demanding she take off a campaign pin promoting a rival candidate.

The alderman’s camp said the accusations are false and orchestrated by a challenger hoping to “score cheap political points” — a charge that the rival denied.

34. Jan. 15, 2015

Tribune: College of DuPage employed radio engineer despite theft conviction

The College of DuPage continued to employ the engineer at its campus radio station — and continued to pay bills submitted by his private company — for nearly two years after he was convicted of a felony for using that same business to steal from another local college.

The situation raises questions about financial oversight at the taxpayer-funded community college, where the ethics code bars employees from participating in business transactions from which they personally profit, and about whether school officials heeded warnings about engineer John Valenta’s business dealings after his March 2011 arrest.

33. Jan. 15, 2015

Tribune: Lift the smoke screen on medical marijuana licenses in Illinois

The public knows almost nothing about the applicants for the coveted licenses to run 21 growing facilities and 60 dispensaries across the state.

By law, the applicants’ names are secret. So are the details of the 369 applications that have been filed. We don’t know how those applications have been scored by state evaluators. What little we know comes from local zoning requests, business permit applications and other state records.

We understand that people want to have access to medical marijuana. We supported legalizing it. But the secrecy built into this process creates suspicion. Let’s air this out — and if that requires a change in law, let’s do it.

32. Jan. 13, 2015

The Southern Illinoisan: Rauner unveils lobbying ban

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner imposed a one-year ban on state employees moving into the lobbying ranks, saying he’s trying to rebuild trust in state government.

The move — one of a series of ethics-related rules he handed down on his first full day as governor — came in the aftermath of former Gov. Pat Quinn’s chief of staff trading in his government paycheck to lobby the legislature for a ride-sharing company and a medical marijuana firm.

31. Jan. 13, 2015

Sun-Times: Prosecutors say suburban cop overreacted in subduing 95-year-old war vet

John Wrana helped repel the Nazi war machine, but two years ago he took on the men invading his assisted-living apartment with a walking stick, a shoehorn and a knife.

The 95-year-old was no match for the five Park Forest police officers, one of whom fired a shotgun loaded with beanbag cartridges that tore skin from bone and ultimately killed the veteran, Cook County prosecutors said in a Markham courtroom Tuesday.

Craig Taylor, the officer in question, is on trial — accused of felony reckless conduct — in what prosecutors say was an extreme overreaction to an agitated elderly man who had repeatedly refused a hospital trip to check for a possible urinary tract infection.

30. Jan. 13, 2015

Tribune: Rauner spends 1st full day as governor on ethics, reversal of Quinn actions

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner spent his first full day in office Tuesday vowing to overturn a series of moves Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn made on his way out the door, accusing his predecessor of engaging in “inappropriate” political hiring and appointments.

The new governor issued his own executive order on ethics, mandating that state employees disclose more information about their outside activities and financial interests. It also bans them from receiving meals or gifts from lobbyists and others who may have a financial interest in the area of state government they work for or oversee.

29. Jan. 13, 2015

State Journal-Register: Judge orders more restitution in Crundwell case

A federal judge has ordered that about $37,000 of former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell’s assets be turned over to the city as restitution.

Crundwell is serving a 20-year sentence for stealing nearly $54 million from the northern Illinois city. The (Dixon) Telegraph reports Monday that U.S. Dsitrict Judge Philip Reinhard last week made two turnover orders. One was for just more than $37,000 from the American Quarter Horse Association’s Incentive Fund Program.

28. Jan. 12, 2015

Sun-Times: When government big shots spin contacts into gold

Few things should trouble a citizen more than a big shot government official who quits his job, sets up a private business and spins his old contacts into gold.

It is fair to wonder, every time, whether the big shot government official cut sweet deals with contractors, laying the groundwork to join them one day. It is equally fair to wonder whether the big shot, once he has jumped to the private sector, enjoys an insider’s advantage with his old colleagues in getting government business.

27. Jan. 11, 2015

Sun-Times: Ex-schools CEO Huberman getting deals from CPS-funded charters

After leaving city government four years ago, Ron Huberman started his own firm, which is getting business from some of the same government-financed charter-school operators he championed as then-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s schools chief, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.

Huberman, who is a member of Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner’s transition team, founded TeacherMatch LLC in 2011.

The company has since gotten contracts worth a total of more than $200,000 from two of the largest Chicago Public Schools-funded charter operators — the Noble Network of Charter Schools and the United Neighborhood Organization’s charter network — and also has gotten work from some schools in the Chicago International Charter Schools network, records and interviews show.

26. Jan. 11, 2015

The Southern Illinoisan: Commissioner, 911 coordinator at odds over allegations

A Williamson County commissioner is lobbing new allegations of improprieties against the 911 Board while also rehashing older complaints days before he and other commissioners are expected to vote on appointments to the emergency service board.

The 911 coordinator acknowledges some minor missteps along the way but fires back that he has proof there has been no malfeasance or any significant findings of wrongdoing, suggesting the allegations are motivated by a power play to seize some control over the board.

25. Jan. 10, 2015

CBS Chicago: Mayoral Candidates Denounce Red Light Camera Program At West Side Forum

The nation’s largest red light camera program, which has been discredited as being more about revenue than safety, came under heavy fire Saturday at a candidates’ forum on the West Side.

WBBM’s Mike Krauser reports at the Billy Goat Tavern on West Madison Street the group Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras held a forum drawing those who would be mayor and aldermen who pledge to work to abolish the cameras.

24. Jan. 9, 2015

Sun-Times: Lawsuit demands millions in refunds for speed cam tickets illegally issued on non-school days

Chicago could be forced to refund millions of dollars in speed camera fines issued to “tens, if not hundreds of thousands” of motorists on “non-school days,” under a class-action lawsuit that accuses City Hall of thumbing its nose at state law.

The previously undisclosed lawsuit, quietly filed in Circuit Court on Halloween night, accuses Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration of “blatantly and intentionally” ignoring the ground rules established by the Illinois General Assembly before speed cameras were installed around Chicago’s schools and parks.

The statute clearly states, “Violations shall be recorded, only on school days.”

23. Jan. 9, 2015

Tribune: Officers moved from mayor’s security detail seek to depose Emanuel

Lawyers for 11 Chicago police officers who claim Mayor Rahm Emanuel removed them from his security detail for political reasons when he took office in 2011 have asked a federal judge to order the mayor to sit for a deposition as part of their ongoing lawsuit.

The officers, who are all white or Hispanic, alleged in a 2012 complaint that Emanuel actively participated in selecting a new security team that included African-American officers with less seniority as well as officers who had volunteered for his campaign.

22. Jan. 9, 2015

Tribune: Illinois falls short in $20 million effort to develop 1,000 teachers

The state has spent more than $20 million in the past decade to develop 1,000 teachers who would work in distressed public schools and boost the number of minority educators in Illinois.

But since the Grow Your Own Teacher program was launched in Jan. 2005 it has produced just 102 college graduates, and only about 80 of those are teaching.

Hundreds of would-be teachers dropped out after borrowing from the program for college tuition, fees and books, and they didn’t have to repay the loans under rules laid out by the state, officials said. Millions of dollars went to colleges and community groups tapped as program administrators, in some cases eclipsing money spent on the teacher candidates, state financial records show.

21. Jan. 8, 2015

Chicago Reader: A large chunk of money is still missing from the 25th Ward

If you find the $140,000 missing from the 25th Ward, please let Alderman Solis’s office know.

For more than a year and a half, $140,000 of ward funds have been misplaced, and neither Solis nor the city’s budget office can explain where they’ve gone.

The money was intended for “art and culture” initiatives, including new mural installations and a project at Benito Juarez Community Academy, and was supposed to come out of the ward’s menu money, the $1.3 million given to each ward by the city every year for infrastructure and beautification projects.

20. Jan. 8, 2015

Tribune: Illinois urged to reform programs for young wards; DCFS director steps down

Illinois authorities urgently need to overhaul the state’s mental health programs for impoverished youth or they will only see more of the violence and abuse exposed by a recent Tribune investigation on residential treatment centers, a panel of experts told state lawmakers Wednesday.

During the nearly five-hour-long special legislative session in Chicago, state child welfare chief Bobbie Gregg sent a stir through the packed hearing room when she called the Tribune’s reports “both appalling and unacceptable,” and then announced that she would step down from the troubled agency Jan. 19.

19. Jan. 8, 2015

Daily Herald: Off-duty Rosemont cop shoots and kills brother-in-law

A 31-year-old Rosemont man was shot and killed Wednesday by an off-duty Rosemont police officer who is the man’s brother-in-law, officials said.

Joseph Caffarello was shot by the officer at 11:57 a.m. on the 6100 block of Scott Street in Rosemont’s gated community, authorities said.

The officer, a four-year veteran of the force, was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation by the Illinois State Police, officials said.

18. Jan. 7, 2015

Rockford Register Star: Sen. Steve Stadelman: DCFS problems widespread, systemic

A joint Illinois House-Senate committee had the first of what could be many hearings Wednesday, sparked by a newspaper’s series that investigated conditions at 50 youth facilities overseen by the Department of Children and Family Services. One of those is Rock River Academy in Rockford.

Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, said by phone from Chicago during a break in the committee meeting, that the problems at DCFS are widespread and systemic.

17. Jan. 7, 2015

Justice Department: Former Cook County Sheriff’s Deputy Sentenced To 1 Year In Prison For Using Excessive Force Against Detainee In Maywood

A former Cook County sheriff’s deputy was sentenced today to one year in federal prison for violating the civil rights of a man who was being held in the county’s detention lockup facility in Maywood in 2010.  The defendant, RAFAEL MUNOZ, pleaded guilty in September to using unreasonable force.

“What happened here was extremely serious,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez said in imposing the sentence in U.S. District Court.  Munoz was ordered to begin serving his sentence on Feb. 6 and was placed on supervised release for one year following his prison term.

16. Jan. 7, 2015

Chicago Reader: Did Cook County prosecutors overlook evidence and help send an innocent man to prison?

In February 1999, Thomas Epach Jr., a top prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, took on the daunting task of overseeing evidence presented to a grand jury that was reinvestigating the high-profile murder case against death row inmate Anthony Porter. Nearly 15 years later, he’d remain uncertain whether the right man ended up behind bars.

Porter had been convicted in 1983 of the murders of Jerry Hillard and Marilyn Green in the bleachers of a Washington Park pool. The evidence presented against Porter at trial—including testimony from two eyewitnesses—had been overwhelming. One of those eyewitnesses testified that he had been robbed at gunpoint by Porter on the pool deck moments before the murders. Another said that, while in the pool area, he saw Porter shoot the victims and then run past him.

But in early 1999 another man, Alstory Simon, had been tracked down by Northwestern University’s highly influential Innocence Project and confessed on videotape to the same crime—a confession the state’s attorney’s office later characterized as “coerced” by a private investigator named Paul Ciolino, who was working on behalf of Innocence Project director David Protess.

15. Jan. 7, 2015

Sun-Times: Ex-Cook County sheriff’s deputy gets 1 year in prison for unprovoked attack on prisoner

A former Cook County sheriff’s deputy buried his head in his arms Wednesday as a federal judge sentenced him to a year behind bars for an attack on a shackled prisoner.

Rafael Munoz, 39, pleaded guilty in September to a misdemeanor civil rights charge. He confessed to deliberately knocking over the prisoner in July 2010, breaking his nose and tooth. And he admitted at the time the attack at the Maywood courthouse was unprovoked.

14. Jan. 7, 2015

Tribune: Harvey avoids court oversight in Chicago water bill dispute

A long-troubled south suburb was able to avoid outside oversight of its shaky finances in a court ruling Wednesday that also raises questions about who enforces laws meant to safeguard the stability of the region’s water system.

The ruling comes amid a long-running legal battle between the city of Chicago and the suburb of Harvey — a place the Tribune found last year was arguably the area’s most lawless and nearly insolvent. Records show the suburb has survived financially for years largely by taking water from Chicago, not paying for it, and reselling it to residents and other suburbs. Records and interviews show the surplus cash was used to pay other expenses not related to the water system — a scenario that Chicago argued broke state law.

13. Jan. 7, 2015

Tribune: Spielberg, Geffen help add $760,800 to mayor’s campaign war chest

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has now raised $11 million for his re-election bid after collecting $760,800 in recent weeks from well-heeled donors including Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and music executive David Geffen.

And so it was that late last month Chicago for Rahm Emanuel got $25,000 from Spielberg, $50,000 from Geffen, $10,000 from Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and $100,000 from Cheryl Saban, wife of Haim Saban, a media mogul whose properties include the Power Rangers. During the last campaign, Haim Saban tried to donate $400,000 to Emanuel, who returned $300,000 of it because of a self-imposed limit.

12. Jan. 7, 2015 

WBEZ: DCFS director Bobbie Gregg leaving post

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is poised to get its fifth director in less than a year and a half, as current director Bobbie Gregg announced Wednesday she will leave the post Jan. 19.

Lance Trover, a spokesman for Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, said that Rauner recently informed Gregg — as well as other undisclosed state agency directors appointed by outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn — that she would not be reappointed by his administration. Trover did not outline a timeline for replacing Gregg, who has been the child-welfare system’s director since April.

11. Jan. 7, 2015

State Journal-Register: DCFS director expected to testify in youth centers probe

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Director Bobbie Gregg is expected to testify before state lawmakers in the wake of a newspaper investigation’s claims of abuse and other issues at state-run youth centers.

Lawmakers have scheduled hearing today in Chicago. Others expected to speak before House and Senate lawmakers include experts on child welfare and members of a DCFS youth advisory board.

10. Jan. 6, 2015

Sun-Times: Emanuel makes airport advertising deal even sweeter for clout-heavy company

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has quietly approved a $10.5 million addendum to a digital advertising deal at O’Hare Airport that makes it even more lucrative for a clout-heavy company.

The agreement paves the way for Clear Channel Outdoor to take over management of luggage cart services at O’Hare currently controlled by SmartCarte and to sell advertising on those carts.

Two years ago, Fioretti accused Emanuel of giving Clear Channel the right to sell digital advertising at Chicago airports to “make good” for the electronic billboard deal the company lost adjacent to Chicago area expressways.

9. Jan. 6, 2015

Sun-Times: Heads roll when an inspector general does his job

Inspectors general, the historic record shows, are a good idea for governments at all levels. They tend to pay for themselves by uncovering fraud and inefficient business practices. And they give the public some small assurance that the ideal of clean government is not a complete joke.

Meanwhile, however, the City Council, though at times mistaken for a prison waiting room, continues to resist a plan under which Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson would keep watch on the Council. Ferguson would investigate aldermen and their staff members and audit their work, as he now does for City Hall offices. He would take over for the City Council’s inspector general, who runs a hamstrung office that was designed to fail from the start.

8. Jan. 5, 2015

NBC Chicago: Corruption, Theft Still Problems for Chicago Public Schools – Report

The inspector general’s 43-page report shows that corruption and theft are still major problems for the Chicago Public Schools.

In one case, almost $900,000 was stolen in what IG Nicholas Schuler called a major purchasing and re-imbursement scheme at two unnamed high schools.

The report details almost $600,000 paid to two business owners for goods and services that were never actually provided.

7. Jan. 5, 2015

Sun-Times: Emanuel says Quazzo should remain on Board of Ed despite financial interests

Saying the city is “lucky to have her,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel threw his full support Monday behind Deborah Quazzo, his school board appointee who sees no conflict of interest with her investments in companies that sell millions of dollars of educational software to the district she’s tasked with overseeing.

But speaking for the first time since the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that CPS’ business with companies Quazzo invested in tripled since Emanuel appointed her, the mayor refused to answer questions about when he learned about her business interests with Chicago Public Schools.

6. Jan. 5, 2015

Tribune: Illinois pulls wards from Sadie Waterford Manor residential center

State child welfare officials have removed all juvenile state wards from a troubled south suburban residential treatment center after Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart angrily complained that girls were frequently running away, then being sexually assaulted or lured into prostitution.

Dart sent his Child Protection Unit to inspect the 15-bed all-female Sadie Waterford Manor in response to the Tribune’s “Harsh Treatment” series, which found the Crestwood shelter and treatment center had nearly 2,000 police service calls in 2013, including 994 runaway reports. Last summer two Sadie Waterford runaways, ages 14 and 15, reported being sexually assaulted outside the facility in separate incidents, the newspaper found.

5. Jan. 5, 2015

State Journal-Register: Our Opinion – Resolve to end monkey business with state jobs

It was disheartening to learn that Quinn, a Democrat who was defeated in a re-election bid for governor, arranged a cushy two-year appointment for longtime aide and former campaign manager Lou Bertuca with the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.

The authority operates the Chicago White Sox’s U.S. Cellular Field, and it floated bonds to renovate the Chicago Bears’ Soldier Field.

This was no typical political jobs favor, though. This one is brimming with protections. Bertuca, 30, who has no apparent sports- or facilities-management experience, can only be fired with a unanimous vote of the sports facilities board. And he’s guaranteed his $160,000-per-year salary no matter what.

4. Jan. 5, 2015

Tribune: CPS inspector general: Employee orchestrated $870K billing fraud

A former Chicago Public Schools employee, with help from colleagues and vendors, orchestrated the theft of more than $870,000 by fraudulently billing the district for goods and services, according to the annual report from the district’s inspector general.

The alleged scheme involved a half-dozen former CPS employees and is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by the Cook County state’s attorney office, the IG’s report said. CPS is seeking to bar vendors and business owners involved in the scheme from getting future district contracts.

3. Jan. 5, 2015

DNAinfo: Burnett Opponent Grilled on Ballot Signatures, Denies Fraud Allegations

At a objection hearing Friday, former State Senator Rickey Hendon testified that he didn’t pay circulators to gather petition signatures for the 27th Ward candidate he is backing.

Instead, Hendon “compensated” the circulators, when he could, he said.

“I don’t consider it pay. I compensate people for lunch, gas, food,” Hendon said, and sometimes with “refreshments at the end of the night.”

2. Jan. 4, 2015

Sun-Times: Another kind of transparency problem at IDOT

Government transparency is woefully inadequate in many public agencies — including the Illinois Department of Transportation, or IDOT, which over the past few years has been anything but forthcoming as we sought answers on potentially illegal patronage hiring.

Now IDOT is facing questions about a transparency matter of a different kind: Tinted windows on state vehicles.

Out of fairness, we should say we haven’t found anyone goofing off, but we did find that one of the IDOT trucks was apparently illegally tinted, and at least one more vehicle was tinted without the agency’s permission.

1. Jan. 1, 2015

Tribune: Schiller Park mayor hired husband: ‘He wants nothing but to please me’

Barbara Piltaver spent five years trying to upset the status quo in Schiller Park, promising a more ethical and transparent village government.

Then, when she finally won the near-northwest suburb’s mayoral post in the last election, Piltaver hired her husband to an $80,000-a-year position overseeing the town’s Public Works Department.

Piltaver admits the move looks bad. But she puts forth a defense that public officials have long made when it comes to hiring family: The relatives are hard workers, know the town well and can be trusted.

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