Illinois Corruption Watch: December 2014

Brian Costin

Open government and government transparency expert

Brian Costin
January 16, 2015

Illinois Corruption Watch: December 2014

The residential-center horror stories demonstrate that corruption in government often hurts the most vulnerable among us. It also shows that exposing those injustices can lead to change.

This blog was co-authored by Shawn Tonge, Good Government research assistant

December saw 51 stories of corruption in Illinois, nine of which dealt with negligence and mismanagement in the care of state wards.

When there’s corruption and mismanagement of government programs intended help children suffering from abuse or abandonment, the consequences can be horrific.

A series of investigative reports from the Chicago Tribune, titled “Harsh Treatment,” painted a deeply troubling picture of residential treatment centers in Illinois. The purpose of the state-run facilities, which receive more than $200 million per year, is to supervise and aid juvenile state wards with histories of abuse. The investigation revealed the centers are plagued by crime.

Reports of serious crimes at the centers, such as instances of sexual assault and violence, were often ignored by officials at the Department of Children and Family Services, or DCFS. They continued to send troubled youths to the facilities despite the signs of danger.

It was also discovered that some staff members at the centers mocked residents who had been forced into sex trafficking and even encouraged violence between the youths.

A report from the state’s auditor general found that the DCFS doesn’t keep accurate records of wards who have gone missing and the agency often failed to respond to disappearances in a timely manner.

The residential centers are meant to be a sanctuary for the disadvantaged youths who are sent there. Because of the reprehensible misconduct and negligence of the people tasked with protecting them, these young men and women may have faced even more suffering than they would have otherwise.

In the wake of the Tribune’s investigation, the DCFS began investigating conditions at the facilities, and the agency’s director, Bobbie Gregg, has announced she will be stepping down on Jan. 19. Lawmakers and public officials from across the state have called for reforms to fix the broken program.

The residential-center horror stories demonstrate that corruption in government often hurts the most vulnerable among us. It also shows that exposing those injustices can lead to change.

51.  Dec. 28, 2014

Journal Star: A recap of some stories where transparency matters

Each day in the newspaper, we showcase the triumphs and tragedies of central Illinois. That includes people’s awards as well as their arrests, moments of selfless giving and moments of greed.

So, too, is a job equally fundamental. This paper’s reporters also act as watchdogs, asking uncomfortable — sometimes impertinent — questions of those in power. We follow three members of Congress and 15 members of the state Legislature. But there are also 317 other government entities just in the Tri-County Area alone — a trio of county boards, a multiplicity of school boards, an airport authority and countless other library and park boards, not to mention townships.

50. Dec. 26, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Some have recouped millions from risky type of debt that plagues CPS

With risky debt deals draining money from Chicago’s cash-strapped public school system, advocacy groups are calling on local officials to try to get some of that money back.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel dismissed the idea in remarks to reporters last month, declaring that “there’s a thing called a contract.” But other bodies that signed contracts in similar situations have, in fact, succeeded in clawing back losses, with banks repaying millions of dollars to governments that issued the same kind of problematic auction-rate debt Chicago’s school system did.

Those borrowers argued that they signed contracts based on misrepresentations by bank officials who failed to disclose that the banks were propping up the auction-rate market, leaving it vulnerable to collapse. When that collapse occurred, in early 2008, governments — including Chicago Public Schools — were charged punishing interest rates.

49. Dec. 23, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Experts: Chicago’s short yellow light times, red light cameras a risky mix

Chicago has the nation’s largest red light camera system and the shortest allowable yellow lights — a unique and dangerous combination that makes rear-end crashes more likely across the city, a Tribune investigation has found.

The three-second yellow lights commonly used in Chicago are too short even if drivers are observing the speed limit — and many of them don’t — said traffic researcher Timothy Gates, whose work is the basis for revisions to national standards on signal timing.

Add in red light cameras, and “it creates an unsafe environment where people are stopping too abruptly because they are afraid of getting a ticket,” Gates said.

48. Dec. 23. 2014

Crain’s Chicago: Feds sue Chicago schools for bias—against pregnant teachers

Chicago Public Schools was hit with a beyond eyebrow-raising charge today—a formal complaint that it discriminated against pregnant teachers.

The suit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice names only one school where alleged discrimination occurred: Scammon Elementary on the mid-Northwest Side. But the complaint asserts that CPS officials were notified in August that the suit was about to be filed but still have not taken corrective actions.

 47. Dec. 22, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Many red light cameras put in low-crash areas

Nearly half of the Chicago red light cameras included in a new Tribune study did nothing to make drivers safer and may have caused an increase in injury-related crashes.

Researchers hired by the Tribune to analyze the effects of the city’s cameras said the finding involved 43 of the 90 camera intersections in the study — the ones that averaged fewer than four injury crashes a year before red light cameras were installed.

The small number of total crashes makes it difficult to know for certain whether the cameras were to blame for the increases, but the scientists from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute said they are confident in their conclusion that the cameras offered no safety benefit at those intersections.

 46. Dec. 20, 2014

Pantagraph: Troopers: Evidence doesn’t match officer’s story

Evidence at the scene of a May 2013 motorcycle crash involving a Pontiac police officer did not support his version of events, two state troopers testified Friday at the officer’s trial on criminal charges.

Daron Bagnell is charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to Illinois State Police investigators about how an off-duty accident occurred on May 1, 2013, on U.S. 24 west of Chenoa.

 45. Dec. 19, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Tribune study: Chicago red light cameras provide few safety benefits

Chicago’s red light cameras fail to deliver the dramatic safety benefits long claimed by City Hall, according to a first-ever scientific study that found the nation’s largest camera program is responsible for increasing some types of injury crashes while decreasing others.

The state-of-the-art study commissioned by the Tribune concluded the cameras do not reduce injury-related crashes overall — undercutting Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s primary defense of a program beset by mismanagement, malfunction and a $2 million bribery scandal.

 44. Dec. 19, 2014

CBS Chicago: Lesbian Police Officer Sues Markham for Discrimination

A police officer filed a federal civil rights suit Wednesday against south suburban Markham, claiming discrimination because she is a lesbian.

Officer Brittney Jackson’s complaint has alleged the harassment began when she joined the force in May 2010, and continued despite numerous complaints.

 43. Dec. 18, 2014

State Register Journal: Audit – DCFS loses track of runaways

Illinois’ child-welfare agency cannot properly account for thousands of runaway or otherwise missing foster care children, is sloppy about keeping track of when they disappear, and can rarely show that proper authorities are contacted when necessary, a report by Auditor General William Holland released Thursday found.

The agency reports that, during the 2011 and 2012 audit period, an estimated 2,800 to 3,100 foster children, or state wards, disappeared in 26,500 to 29,200 separate incidents.

42. Dec. 17, 2014

Chicago Sun-Times: Sergeant testifies against ex-deputy police chief in brutality case

A jury hearing a police brutality case witnessed a highly unusual sight Wednesday — a junior officer testifying against his former boss in a criminal trial.

And Sgt. Edmond Olmos appeared to do real damage to former Midlothian deputy police chief Steve Zamiar, corroborating a claim from a man out drinking on “Black Wednesday” that he presented no threat when Zamiar attacked him with his steel baton.

41. Dec. 17, 2014

State Journal-Register: Chicago couple convicted of stealing state grants

A Chicago businessman and his wife were convicted Wednesday on more than a dozen counts for stealing $3.4 million in state taxpayer money as part of a rampant fraud scheme involving Illinois Department of Public Health grants.

A federal jury deliberated for just over five hours before dealing a clean sweep for the government in finding Leon Dingle Jr., 77, and Karin Dingle, 75, guilty on 17 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering. The Dingles could face dozens of years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and forfeitures when they are sentenced April 9.

40. Dec. 17, 2014

FOX 32: Exclusive: Cop says political reasons keep hit-and-run murder from being solved

It was a heartbreaking story that made headlines nine years ago. An 11-year-old boy killed by a hit-and-run driver while sledding.

Now, the police officer once in charge of that investigation is blowing the whistle on his own department. He said he believes he knows who killed Robbie Silva, but said his bosses stopped his investigation for political reasons.

Haro said he and other officers quickly identified a person of interest, a Blue Island man. FOX 32 News learned the businessman has made numerous political donations to village leaders.

39. Dec. 16, 2014

State Journal-Register: Springfield City Council votes 9-1 to establish watchdog office

The Springfield City Council on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved establishing an Office of the Inspector General to look into alleged wrongdoing in city government.

In a 9-1 vote, aldermen OK’d creating the office to investigate, inspect and oversee city departments, and look into reported malfeasance.

38. Dec. 16, 2014

State Journal-Register: Case against former Kincaid police chief moves forward

The official misconduct case against Richard Adams, the former police chief in Kincaid, is moving forward for the first time since June.

Adams appeared briefly in court Tuesday before Circuit Judge Allen Bennett, who scheduled a pretrial hearing for 10 a.m. Feb. 18.

Adams was arrested by Illinois State Police in February. He is accused of using his position to have village employees make repairs to his home on village time.

37. Dec. 15, 2014

Chicago Tribune: DCFS stops placements, steps up monitoring at living center for youths

State child welfare officials have stopped sending juvenile wards to a troubled Rockford residential facility following Tribune reports that youths inside the center were assaulted and lured into prostitution.

Officials also placed the 59-bed, all-girls Rock River Academy under enhanced monitoring, with state inspectors making rounds at least twice a day to ensure the youths who remain there are safe, according to the state Department of Children and Family Services.

 36. Dec. 15, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Rahm Emanuel reimburses city $7,000 more for travel

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has paid back the city $7,000 more in travel expenses following Chicago Tribune questions about why he spent taxpayer money to have Chicago police officers accompany him to the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

It’s the third check Emanuel has cut to taxpayers — a tab that’s reached nearly $22,000 — in response to Tribune stories that showed how the mayor has used city funds to pay for trips during which he solicited campaign contributions and attended political events that included little or no official city business.

35. Dec. 14, 2014

Chicago Sun-Times: Election board turns up heat on Berrios adviser

Already facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines for violations of campaign-finance law, a longtime adviser to Cook County Assessor and Democratic Party chairman Joseph Berrios now also faces a possible criminal investigation regarding more than $135,000 in political cash he hasn’t accounted for.

A state hearing officer is recommending that the Illinois State Board of Elections send the case of Jesse Ruben Juarez to the Cook County state’s attorney and the Illinois attorney general “for review of possible criminal violations.”

34. Dec. 12, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios again hit for hiring practices

Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios has failed to take steps to root out nepotism, favoritism and politics in his office’s hiring practices, according to a new report by a federal court monitor.

The report by Clifford Meacham accuses Berrios of “taking the minimum actions necessary to placate” Meacham and the U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier, who oversees the case under the Shakman decrees that ban city and county officials from basing personnel decisions on political considerations in most cases.

33. Dec. 12, 2014

Beacon News: District 308 School Board finds ‘no basis’ for ethics violation allegations

The Oswego-based Community Unit School District 308 School Board has found “no basis” for ethics violation allegations that were lodged against a district official and two board members because of emails they exchanged back in September.

The emails between Brian Graves, the district’s director of communications, Bill Walsh and Brent Lightfoot, two school board members who are up for re-election in April, were released last month through an open records request by a local media outlet.

State ethics law and district policy would prohibit a school district employee from working on campaign activities during paid work hours.

32. Dec. 11, 2014

FOX 32: Study – Illinois bad, but not the most corrupt state in America

It’s no secret that corruption is common in Illinois but there’s some good news – we’re not the worst.

A new study from Harvard University found that Kentucky and New Jersey have worse ranking when it comes to “legal” corruption. That’s corruption through political gains in the form of campaign contributions.

Illinois also didn’t top the list for “illegal” corruption which is private gains of cash or gifts for the exchange of benefits for private individuals or groups.

31. Dec. 10, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Attorneys – Police planted blood on Juan Rivera’s shoes in Waukegan slaying

Before Juan Rivera went to trial for the August 1992 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl, police and prosecutors in Lake County heralded a piece of evidence they said linked him to the crime: a pair of sneakers that authorities said belonged to Rivera and were stained with Holly Staker’s blood.

Now, three years after Rivera was exonerated and freed from prison with the help of DNA evidence, his attorneys have made a startling new allegation in a federal lawsuit that police planted the blood. Their evidence: The shoes were not available for sale anywhere in the country until after Holly was fatally stabbed in Waukegan.

30. Dec. 10, 2014

Chicago Sun-Times: Emanuel blasts Quinn for stadium authority power play

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday blasted outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn for muscling his former campaign manager into the job of executive director of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority as the lame-duck Democrat prepares to leave office.
Emanuel portrayed Chicago taxpayers as the big losers now that Quinn’s choice — 30-year-old Lou Bertuca —has been handed a two-year contract to run the state agency that built and manages U.S. Cellular Field and rebuilt Soldier Field.

 29. Dec. 9, 2014

Chicago Tribune: DCFS inspects troubled youth living centers in response to Tribune series

Teams of state child welfare officials have begun making unannounced inspections at residential treatment facilities that serve juvenile wards as authorities accelerate their response to a Tribune investigation revealing assaults, rapes and prostitution schemes at some of Illinois’ largest youth centers.

Starting before sunrise Monday, the state Department of Children and Family Services dispatched groups of five to 10 specialists to four institutions where they pulled clinical records and case files as well as interviewing youth and staff. DCFS officials said they are targeting four other facilities for inspections in the coming days after reviewing Unusual Incident Reports that show high rates of youth hurt or placed in jeopardy.

 28. Dec. 9, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Adviser to municipal investment fund accused of negligence

An investment in government-backed loans that burned an Illinois fund that manages taxpayer money was sold to clients as “essentially risk-free,” according to a lawsuit filed in a federal court in Texas.

The suit is the first legal action against Pennant Management, the Milwaukee-based investment adviser that recommended the loans to institutional clients, including the Oak Brook-based Illinois Metropolitan Investment Fund, banks and retirement plans.

Pennant’s clients have lost nearly $180 million because the loans are allegedly fraudulent. Pennant has blamed the Florida lender who sold the loans for the losses, but one of its clients has raised questions about Pennant’s conduct.

27. Dec. 9, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Redflex bagman pleads guilty in Chicago red light camera case

The bagman in a $2 million bribery scandal over Chicago’s red light camera program admitted Wednesday he paid kickbacks to a former top city transportation official who allegedly steered the lucrative contract to the company he represented.

Martin O’Malley, 73, the former Chicago-based consultant for Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to bribe a public official. He faces up to five years in prison, but his sentence could be far less because of his cooperation with law enforcement and his poor health.

 26. Dec. 9, 2014

CBS Chicago: Study – City Council a bigger rubber stamp for Emanuel than for the Daleys

The City Council has bristled under criticisms that it is little more than a rubber stamp for Chicago’s mayors, but a new study has revealed that label is more accurate now than ever.

University of Illinois at Chicago political science professor Dick Simpson, a former alderman himself, said the City Council marches lockstep with Mayor Rahm Emanuel even more than it did under Mayor Richard M. Daley, or his father, Richard J. Daley.

 25. Dec. 8, 2014

In announcing the charges on Sept. 18, Attorney General Lisa Madigan alleged the women conspired to steal more than $84,000 from cash bond payments made to the clerk’s office from 2008 to Aug. 5, 2013.

The women turned themselves in to the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office the day the charges were announced. Each posted $2,000 cash bond and was released.

 24. Dec. 8, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Pizza man’s clout wins big dough in Tinley Park

In Tinley Park, Mayor Ed Zabrocki hails the work done by village commissioners, who he says volunteer their time to the town without receiving pay.

But some prominent commissioners do receive something from Tinley Park: extensive business at the expense of local competitors. A Tribune analysis of spending records shows that one influential commission chairman, Ed & Joe’s Restaurant and Pizzeria owner Michael Clark, has sold thousands of dollars worth of pies and other food to the village for various functions.

 23. Dec. 8, 2014

Chicago Sun-Times: Prosecutors will not call Obama friend Eric Whitaker to the stand

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday they will not call one of President Barack Obama’s closest friends, Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, before a jury hearing a multimillion-dollar grand-fraud case because of “baseless accusations” they say Whitaker leveled the day before.

“We are not going to call Dr. Whitaker as a witness,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy A. Bass told Judge Richard Mills, who ruled Monday that Whitaker would have been a “hostile witness” had prosecutors decided to call him.

 22. Dec. 8, 2014

WBEZ: Lawsuit seeks information on alleged CPD spying

Activists say the Chicago Police Department is monitoring their cell phones at protests, and they are trying to use a lawsuit to prove it.

At issue are cell-phone interceptors called stingrays. These force mobile phones to communicate with them by mimicking a cell tower. For years, Chicago police denied owning any of these stingrays, but a 2014 lawsuit forced the department to turn over records proving the department had purchased several of them.

21. Dec. 8, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Residential centers call police to discipline youths for spitting, threats

Across the country, including Illinois, arrests like this have become commonplace at taxpayer-funded facilities that house juvenile state wards with histories of abuse, as well as low-income youths with behavioral and mental health problems, an investigation by the Tribune and Northwestern University’s Medill Watchdog found.

The residential facilities sometimes summoned police to quell disturbances and investigate reports of extreme violence, from gang brawls to rape, but law enforcement officers were also used as a behavior management tool as overwhelmed staff struggled to control youths in their care. The Tribune-Medill team found that police detained residents for throwing food, threatening workers, spitting, trying to run away or pushing back when employees restrained them.

 20. Dec. 8, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Youths drawn into prostitution while living at residential facilities

The young woman offered to truckers for $20 was a juvenile ward of the state who endured a history of abuse before being placed in 2012 at Rock River Academy in Rockford, where officials pledge to keep youths safe and give them a shot at a better life.

Instead she fell into a world of sexual exploitation that seems to be accepted as a fact of life at some of the large residential treatment centers that get millions of taxpayer dollars each year to care for Illinois’ most destitute and troubled young wards, a Tribune investigation found.

The prostitution emerges against a backdrop of violence at the facilities where the threat of sexual coercion is common, residents frequently square off in fights, destroy property, abuse medications and attack peers or staff, government records show.

 19. Dec. 8, 2014

Chicago Sun-Times: Koschman cop found soft landing with state job

Three years after he led the initial botched investigation into David Koschman’s death in 2004 at the hands of a nephew of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, Ronald E. Yawger retired from the Chicago Police Department and took a plum job with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Even though he’d once been indicted by a federal grand jury, Yawger was hired over dozens of other applicants as one of only 13 investigators on Madigan’s staff.

 18. Dec. 6, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Rosemont passes law to keep Garth Brooks concert details secret

The village recently passed an ordinance to keep secret the financial details related to Brooks’ record-breaking concert run — an unusual move that came after the Chicago Tribune filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to his September shows at Allstate Arena.

The ordinance gives the mayor and other officials the power to withhold documents if they believe the release would put village-owned entertainment venues at a competitive disadvantage. In addition to the arena, the town owns and operates the Rosemont Theatre and the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.

Village officials declined comment on the new law this week, citing the ongoing dispute with the Tribune over the Brooks documents.

 17. Dec. 5, 2014

Department of Justice: Former Illinois State Rep. Keith Farnham Pleads Guilty to Transporting Child Pornography

Former Illinois State Rep. KEITH FARNHAM pleaded guilty today to a federal charge of transporting child pornography via computers in his office and residence in Elgin last year.  Farnham resigned his seat in the Illinois General Assembly in March of this year, less than a week after federal agents seized computers from his home and office.

Farnham, 67, of Elgin, remains on restrictive conditions of bond, including home incarceration with electronic monitoring, while awaiting sentencing, which U.S. District Judge Edmond E. Chang scheduled for March 19, 2015, in Federal Court.

Farnham, who must register as a convicted sex offender, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.  His plea agreement states that the government anticipates a United States Sentencing Guidelines range of at least 151 to 188 months in prison.  Federal inmates must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence and there is no parole in the federal prison system.

 16. Dec. 5, 2014 

Chicago Tribune: Angry lawmakers vow action on problems with residential care for troubled youths

Public officials on Friday reacted angrily to an ongoing Tribune investigation that found juvenile state wards were assaulted and sexually abused at government-funded residential treatment centers throughout Illinois.

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, state lawmakers, child welfare officials and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart all expressed outrage at the abuse of youths at some of the state’s most relied-on facilities, and they vowed swift action.

 15. Dec. 5, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Sexually traumatized youths report new abuse at Indian Oaks

Like so many youths sent to Indian Oaks Academy, the 19-year-old was a victim of sexual abuse when he arrived. The 112-bed residential treatment center in Manteno, Ill. — about 50 miles southwest of Chicago — describes itself as a nationally recognized program that specializes in providing a safe environment for treating youths who have endured sexual attacks or victimized others.

But a Tribune investigation found that in a shocking number of cases, vulnerable and traumatized youths were sent to the facility for help only to be hurt again.

14. Dec. 5, 2014

WBEZ: Who polices the police? In Chicago, it’s increasingly ex-cops

Then there’s Chicago. Since 2007, according to city records, police gunfire has killed at least 116 people and injured another 258. The city’s Independent Police Review Authority, the agency in charge of investigating those shootings, has not found a single one to be unjustified.

Now a WBEZ investigation raises questions about just how independent the agency is. City records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that IPRA’s management now includes six former cops — officials who have spent most of their career in sworn law enforcement. Those include the agency’s top three leaders.

13. Dec. 4, 2014

Chicago Tribune: At Lawrence Hall, vulnerable kids terrorized, learn life of crime

All three teens were placed in state protective custody because they had suffered abuse or neglect in the homes of their biological parents. They arrived at Lawrence Hall Youth Services needing every bit of the expert care and close guidance expected from this nonprofit, which gets $20 million per year in government funds to treat state wards and other disadvantaged youths.

But at Lawrence Hall’s 48-bed residential treatment center in the Ravenswood neighborhood — and its linked set of group homes and supervised apartments — children were preyed on by hardened peers and drawn into a life of crime that then spilled out into the community, a Tribune investigation found.

12. Dec. 4, 2014

Pantagraph: Former village treasurer charged with theft

The former treasurer for the village of DeWitt faces theft and official misconduct charges related to her alleged theft of about $20,000.

The sheriff said his office has been working on the DeWitt theft case since village officials reported the missing money in Dec. 2013. Evans had served just nine months as treasurer before leaving her post in September, 2013.

11. Dec. 4, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Alderman’s ex-chief pleads guilty to bribery

The former longtime chief of staff to Chicago Ald. Howard Brookins had been scheduled to plead guilty for weeks, but for a moment Thursday in federal court it appeared it might fall through after all.

A federal prosecutor had just detailed the bribery allegations against Curtis V. Thompson Jr. The judge then asked Thompson if that account was true. He hesitated.

But after huddling in the hallway with his attorneys for a few minutes, Thompson returned to the courtroom to announce it was all a misunderstanding, admitting he had pocketed a holiday payoff last year — a Christmas envelope stuffed with $7,500 in cash.

 10. Dec. 4, 2014

Department of Justice: Alderman’s Former Chief Of Staff Pleads Guilty To Accepting $7,500 Bribe In Exchange For Letters Of Support For Liquor License

A former chief of staff for an unnamed Chicago alderman pleaded guilty today to accepting a $7,500 cash bribe in exchange for obtaining the alderman’s letters of support for a license to sell alcohol in the alderman’s ward.  The defendant, CURTIS V. THOMPSON, JR., accepted the bribe from an individual who claimed he wanted to open a convenience store but was actually a cooperating witness in an FBI undercover investigation.

9. Dec. 3, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Children attacked, abused at taxpayer-funded living centers

In residential treatment centers across Illinois, children are assaulted, sexually abused and running away by the thousands — yet state officials fail to act on reports of harm and continue sending waves of youths to the most troubled and violent facilities, a Tribune investigation found.

At a cost to taxpayers of well over $200 million per year, the residential centers promise round-the-clock supervision and therapy to state wards with histories of abuse and neglect, as well as other disadvantaged youths with mental health and behavioral problems. On any given day, about 1,400 wards live in the centers, although far more cycle through each year.

 8. Dec. 3, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Rosemont covered up crimes, former cop alleges in lawsuit

A former top police officer in a controversial suburb has accused village officials of covering up crimes and misconduct tied to themselves and those close to them.In a lawsuit filed last week in Cook County, former Rosemont police Cmdr. Frank Siciliano claims he was ousted, in part, for refusing to go along with the alleged cover-ups in the small town in the shadow of O’Hare International Airport. Siciliano also alleged he was pushed out for refusing to back down from a compensation claim over a back injury.
7. Dec. 3, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Council workers cheat taxpayers with political work, embattled watchdog says

As he fights to keep his job amid accusations of incompetence leveled by the Chicago aldermen he investigates, the City Council’s internal watchdog on Wednesday issued a report that concluded many council employees were doing political work on the taxpayer dime.

Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan released his missive as many re-election seeking aldermen are angling to see him replaced by Executive Inspector Joseph Ferguson. Khan also is suing Mayor Rahm Emanuel and key aldermen to get more money for his office.

6. Dec. 2, 2014

Pantagraph: City to review hundreds of records in officer’s criminal case

The city’s lawyer will review several hundred documents related to performance standards for a former Bloomington police officer charged with forgery and official misconduct before turning the records over to the officer’s attorney.

VanHoveln was charged in June with forgery for allegedly falsifying 11 traffic citations in January and February 2014, and with official misconduct.

5. Dec. 2, 2014

NBC Chicago: Justice Department Asks Court to Treat Close Obama Friend as Hostile Witness

Federal prosecutors have asked a court in Springfield to be allowed to treat President Barack Obama’s close friend and golfing partner Dr. Eric Whitaker as a hostile witness in the trial of Leon Dingle, who is accused of stealing some $3 million in grants.

Prosecutors said in the motion that Whitaker signed a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, but quickly quit cooperating when questions turned to his “personal relationship” with Quinshaunta R. Golden, his former chief of staff when he was at the agency. Golden, who oversaw the awarding of contracts for the department of health, pleaded guilty to stealing some $400,000 in funds.

4. Dec. 2, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Illinois lawmakers want to dismantle Freedom of Information Act

Your lame duck legislature is fiddling with the Illinois Freedom of Information Act again. No good can come of that.
Before they leave town this week, lawmakers with nothing to lose could be asked to vote on two bills, both of them designed to water down an already weak public records law.

 3. Dec. 1, 2014

The Southern Illinoisan: Report – Human Rights employees falsified documents

An investigation found that four Illinois Department of Human Rights employees supposedly examining discrimination complaints forged signatures and falsified documents to cover for work they didn’t do.

The report Monday by the Office of the Executive Inspector General also found supervisors failed to monitor the four investigators, who resigned in 2011 and 2012.

 2. Dec. 1, 2014

Crain’s Chicago: Ex-Chicago Comptroller Amer Ahmad gets 15 years in fraud scheme

A former deputy treasurer was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison for his role as lead conspirator in a kickback scheme at the state treasurer’s office.

Amer Ahmad pleaded guilty last year in federal court to bribery and conspiracy charges, though he fled to Pakistan to avoid punishment.

1. Dec. 1, 2014

Daily Herald: Editorial – Lawmakers, stop chipping away at open government

Some Illinois lawmakers are using the dark days of Dec. to take a hit at the state’s sunshine laws in a quest to keep more things secret from all of us.

The latest effort to chip away at public access laws would affect citizen’s rights to information at every level of government, from suburban council chambers to the Capitol in Springfield.

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