Pritzker tells 2 state senators to resign after corruption allegations

Pritzker tells 2 state senators to resign after corruption allegations

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is demanding resignations from two longtime Democratic state senators. One faces federal bribery charges in connection with red-light cameras. The other allegations of domestic abuse and harassment of a top staffer.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker called on two Democratic state senators to resign Sept. 22 amid charges of federal bribery and accusations of domestic abuse and harassment, declaring corruption a bipartisan issue in Illinois.

“Integrity is essential to public service, and corruption for personal gain and abuse in private or public is unacceptable,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Illinoisans deserve to have elected leaders who are focused on representing them — not on holding office when facing serious and credible charges.”

Pritzker himself faced a federal probe after toilets were removed from a mansion he owned on Chicago’s Gold Coast to render it uninhabitable. That move saved $331,000 in property taxes until the ploy was discovered and Pritzker paid the taxes.

Pritzker wants the resignation of state Sen. Emil Jones III, D-Chicago, charged in a criminal information for allegedly accepting $5,000 in bribes from a red-light camera company executive and lying to the FBI. He’s also trying to oust state Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, accused in court papers of domestic abuse of his estranged wife and harassment of a top staffer, a case the cost the state $100,000.

While Hastings faces no charges, Pritzker said he wants to send a clear message to the senators and people of Illinois: “corruption and abuse have no place here.”

Except corruption and abuse of power are entrenched in Illinois politics. Illinois is ranked as the second-most corrupt state in the nation, with government corruption costing Illinoisans $550 million in lost economic activity every year.

Jones is the sixth state senator to be hit with federal corruption charges since 2019 when Pritzker took office. The Chicago Tribune reports a seventh senator, state Sen. Elgie Sims of Chicago, is also under federal investigation.

The former SafeSpeed executive implicated in Jones’ bribery scheme, Omar Maani, was charged separately. The company has not been accused of wrongdoing. Maani has been cooperating with the FBI since 2020.

Jones is the latest public official facing corruption charges stemming from red-light cameras. Others include the late state Sen. Martin Sandoval, former Crestwood Mayor Lou Presta, former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski and former Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Tony Ragucci.

While Pritzker’s recent rhetoric takes a hard stance on public corruption, the governor faced “Toiletgate” and has long abided and approved ethics reforms that fall short of state watchdogs’ recommendations for addressing root causes of the malfeasance.

He approved moderate ethics reforms in October 2021 that led former Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope to resign. Pope said there were “no real teeth to this legislation the way it is,” making her little more than “a paper tiger.”

Illinois’ culture of corruption will fade with strong laws and prosecutions, not rhetoric during a campaign.

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