Court testimony: Center of Chicago red-light-camera scandal ordered donations to Madigan’s political organization
Redflex bagman Martin O’Malley says John Bills ordered him to pay thousands of dollars to Mike Madigan’s 13th Ward Democratic Organization.
In Illinois, the right political connections command a premium.
John Bills – the former Chicago transportation official indicted on corruption charges in August 2014 – knows this as well as anyone.
Federal prosecutors allege Bills received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and perks from Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. in exchange for bringing the company’s red-light cameras to Chicago.
Now, the admitted bagman for Bills’ scheme with Redflex, Martin O’Malley, said Bills ordered him to cut checks totaling $5,500 to Illinois House of Representatives Speaker Mike Madigan’s 13th Ward Democratic Organization, according to the Chicago Tribune.
O’Malley’s Jan. 13 testimony was the first time a jury has heard from a key witness in the Bills case. Both O’Malley and former Redflex CEO Karen Finley have pled guilty to their respective roles in orchestrating the bribery scheme.
In his testimony, O’Malley detailed giving Bills over $557,000 in cash at various eateries across Chicago over a period of several years, the Tribune reported. Every time the city installed a new red-light camera, O’Malley received a commission. Federal prosecutors allege Bills directed Redflex to include this perk in O’Malley’s contract with the company.
“I put it in the bank, paid taxes on it and gave the rest to John Bills,” O’Malley testified. “A lot of times he would tell me what he wanted, most usually over the phone.”
Among the things Bills wanted? According to O’Malley, $5,500 in donations to one of Madigan’s fundraising arms.
Prosecutors submitted documents in December that show how Bills not only rigged the red-light-camera bidding process in Redflex’s favor, but also pushed the city’s adoption of speed cameras. This involved further interaction with Madigan.
In April 2010, O’Malley sent an email to Redflex Vice President of Sales and Marketing Aaron Rosenberg highlighting Madigan’s powwow with Bills, writing: “JB has talked to Speaker of the house Matigan [sic] about Speed. Time for you to have private meeting & presentation!!!”
Madigan later sponsored a bill allowing speed cameras in Chicago, which former Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law on Feb. 6, 2012.
Prosecutors have not alleged any wrongdoing on the part of Madigan. But the Bills case is yet another study in Illinois’ twisted web of political influence.