Theft, solicitation of bribes among misconduct in Chicago inspector general’s report

Theft, solicitation of bribes among misconduct in Chicago inspector general’s report

Chicago’s inspector general unveiled a litany of misconduct by city employees and contractors.

Bribery, fraud, theft and sexual misconduct by city employees and contractors can be found in the pages of the latest quarterly report issued by Chicago’s inspector general.

An Office of Inspector General, or OIG, investigation found that a parking enforcement officer for a Department of Finance contractor solicited bribes in exchange for deleting parking tickets on at least three occasions. In the third instance, the parking enforcement officer still issued a citation despite receiving money. Following the OIG investigation, the employee was discharged by the contractor.

Another investigation found that a Chicago Department of Aviation administrative assistant at O’Hare International Airport solicited money from a customer service agent who applied for a required ID badge. After the service agent received the badge, the unnamed administrative assistant improperly terminated it. OIG recommended the employee be discharged, but department leaders decided on a 29-day suspension.

In 2015, an executive director of a nonprofit forged signatures on three checks totaling $5,750, confessed and agreed to repay the money, but then made the repayment using fraudulently obtained money, the report states. According to the report narrative, the director’s nonprofit contracted with Chicago to manage a Special Service Area, a local tax district that provides expanded services and programs. The director forged a district commissioner’s signature on checks totaling $5,750 and deposited the money into an account they controlled. The forgery was discovered and the director agreed to repay the city. The director then obtained the $5,750 from their nonprofit by issuing fraudulent advertising invoices from a newspaper owned by the director, violating several Illinois criminal statutes. The nonprofit’s board of directors was notified of this in 2015, but did not take any significant action.

Additionally, a U.S. Bank employee and close friend of the executive director was charged in 2017 with theft of the nonprofit’s funds, totaling $22,342 in fraudulent cash withdrawals, according to the report. The nonprofit refused to cooperate with the OIG despite a subpoena. The OIG has since recommended the city no longer do business with the nonprofit.

In another case, an OIG investigation found a police operator allowed a gun suspect to be warned police might be on their way. The report stated an Office of Emergency Management and Communications police communications operator disseminated confidential and sensitive information. While on duty, the operator received a 911 call reporting a woman was placing a firearm in the trunk of her car. Instead of immediately sending the 911 call to dispatch, the operator called a daughter, who then in turn contacted the subject of the 911 call to inform her of the possibility of police activity. The police communication operator resigned and was placed on the ineligible hire list.

This revelation comes at a time of heightened distrust of the Chicago Police Department,  following the murder conviction of Chicago officer Jason Van Dyke, and more recently, release of video from an August 2017 police shooting of unarmed and developmentally disabled 19-year-old Ricardo Hayes. In the report, the OIG determined the release practices of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, “created the appearance of an accountability system susceptible to external pressures.”

Despite the City Council revamping Chicago’s sexual harassment ordinance five times in six months, two cases in the report uncovered sexual misconduct by employees in the Department of Fleet and Facilities Management and the Department of Planning and Development. The former reportedly took pictures and video of an explicit sexual nature while on duty to then send to a teenager. Department of Fleet and Facilities Management dismissed the employee, following OIG’s recommendation. The latter accessed pornographic material on city computers and made inappropriate comments to customers. In place of dismissal, the employee resigned.

Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson wrote that publishing findings of misconduct often serves as confirmation for those with a “dim view of government,” adding, “That is as understandable as it is unfortunate.”

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