Tuesday, October 16, 2007
NOT USUAL 'PROTOCOL' | Tunney got cell phone ticket, handed over driver's license -- but police gave it back after he made a call
October 16, 2007
BY FRAN SPIELMAN AND ANNIE SWEENEY Staff Reportersfirstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Ald. Tom Tunney, like thousands of other motorists, got caught talking on his cell phone while he was driving last week.
What he also got -- which most drivers don't -- was a visit from a Chicago Police officer who returned Tunney's driver's license to him at the alderman's 44th Ward office. The license was returned Friday after Tunney called Town Hall District Cmdr. Gary Yamashiroya to tell him about the ticketing earlier in the day -- which Tunney said he didn't dispute. "I should have known better. And I'm gonna try to get my car equipped so it doesn't happen again," Tunney said. "It's fairly common to see people talking on their cell phones. So, I got caught. I'm treated like everybody else." Motorists generally get their licenses back after they go to court or after they pay their fine and the license is mailed to them. Tunney said he called the commander to inform him of the ticket. The alderman works closely with Yamashiroya on issues pertaining to Wrigley Field. "I called the commander and said, 'This is what happened.' And he suggested, 'The least I can do is return your driver's license to you.'" Tunney said an officer -- not the one who ticketed him -- brought the license to his ward office, and he had to sign an affidavit with conditions for getting the license back. Yamashiroya was on vacation and couldn't be reached Monday, department spokeswoman Monique Bond said. The returning of the license to Tunney's office will be reviewed, Bond said. But she said there have been "extenuating circumstances" where citizens -- average citizens -- were allowed to pay a ticket and get their license back at police stations. "It has to be very, very extenuating -- [such as] someone has to go out of the country," Bond said. When asked about accepting the favor, Tunney said: "Oh, I don't know. I don't know what the [normal] protocol is. I very seldom get stopped. It's still a violation. ... It makes it more convenient, I guess, for the time where it's in the court system. But, I signed off on that."
Tunney, who in 2005 voted for the ban on cell phone use while driving without a hands-free device, said he was conducting routine business while holding his cell phone and driving. "I was remiss," he said. "I should have an appliance in my car because I need to be on the phone all the time. I should have known better." As of August, Chicago Police had issued about 8,500 violations for using a hand-held cell phone while driving -- a $50 ticket. In 2006, police wrote 13,400 tickets.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
By Oscar Avila | Tribune foreign correspondent October 9, 2007
MEXICO CITY - A decade ago, Chicago contractor Marco Morales fled to Mexico to avoid going to prison and testifying against a top city official he bribed. As he sits in a Mexico City prison awaiting possible extradition to Chicago, Morales has undergone a change of heart. He's ready to talk to prosecutors, but he's not sure if he has much to offer, since he has been away from Chicago for so long. In an hourlong jailhouse interview with a Tribune reporter Monday, Morales said he was caught by surprise when Mexican agents arrested him last month. He considers himself a small-time criminal who has become the victim of a political vendetta by U.S. authorities. Morales said he has come to terms with the fact that he likely will be extradited to the U.S. within months. He now says that he would cooperate with federal prosecutors if it would reduce his prison time for charges that he sold 2 pounds of cocaine to an FBI informant. "I'm going to see if they can knock [that sentence] down," Morales said in his first interview since his arrest. But Morales, who pleaded guilty to bribery and mail fraud in 1996 as part of the wide-ranging Operation Silver Shovel probe, said he isn't sure he can provide any information on Chicago corruption that prosecutors would find useful. "What can I offer them that's going to be worth something? It's been 12 years," Morales said. "I'm a convict to a certain extent. What's my testimony against somebody else's?" At the time of his guilty plea, in 1996, Morales said he bribed Anthony Pucillo, a former high-ranking Transportation Department official under Mayor Richard Daley. Pucillo, who has denied wrongdoing, ran a pro-Daley army of city workers, according to court testimony. In addition to Morales, Operation Silver Shovel netted the convictions of six Chicago aldermen and eleven others. One alderman was acquitted. In 1997, after his conviction, Morales fled to Mexico instead of reporting to a federal prison in Michigan to serve his 59-month sentence. In 2004, he successfully fought off an extradition attempt because the statute of limitations on the bribery and fraud charges had expired.
At the time of the first extradition bid, Morales said he had been threatened at gunpoint if he testified and fled for his family's safety. Now that so much time has passed, he said Monday, he no longer feels at risk. Last year, federal prosecutors charged Morales in the drug case again in a new bid to win his extradition. Prosecutors had dropped that charge as part of his initial plea agreement. The U.S. government has not yet filed a formal extradition request for Morales, but officials have until mid-November to do so. U.S. officials noted that Mexico has been more cooperative this year in extraditing suspects back to the U.S. In addition, drug crimes are specifically eligible for extradition under a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Mexico. Unlike the loophole Morales used in the corruption case, the statute of limitations in drug cases extends to 17 years and has not expired in his case. Those factors mean that fighting extradition this time will "be a little more complicated," said Mauro Negrete, a member of Morales' legal team. In fact, Morales, 62, has lost the swagger he displayed in an interview with the Tribune after his first arrest in Mexico three years ago. Then, he was confident he would avoid extradition and proved to be right. Now, Morales admits to a sense of pessimism. Before his recent arrest, his restaurant, a lunch counter in the Yucatan city of Merida, went out of business. Morales said he had been living on a $400 monthly union pension check while caring for his ailing parents. Morales once again denied claims that he has received money from his son, who has collected millions of dollars in city contracts since Morales fled to Mexico. In Monday's interview, Morales fought back tears as he described the telephone calls he makes to his parents from prison with a calling card. "When you call them, they start crying," he said. "It gets to you." The evidence against Morales in the drug case appears solid: the FBI informant, a crooked waste hauler, videotaped the sale. Morales, however, said he considers the drug case to be "entrapment." Negrete said attorneys have not decided whether that will be their official defense. If convicted on the drug charge, Morales faces as many as 40 years in prison. He said he never thought authorities would keep pursuing him but also said he now realizes that U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald would never let him skip out on a plea deal, especially one focused on City Hall corruption.
"Who am I? I'm a little ant compared to these people," Morales said. "It's a vendetta. They figure they couldn't get me the first time. They're going to get me the second time. [The prosecutors] are not going to give up. "They're going to make a show: 'Nobody gets away from us no matter where they go.'" "It's now personal," Negrete added. "It has surpassed the judicial sphere." Although Morales acknowledged that bribing city officials was wrong, he said he would do it again because it was necessary for a businessman to get ahead in Chicago. For now, he has started making a new life for himself in the North Prison, a high-security facility on the fringes of the city. He watches movies on the communal TV and cooks eggs for breakfast in the kitchen. Morales sleeps in a large room with seven other inmates, most of them accused of white-collar crimes. Inmates don't have to wear prison uniforms, and Morales arrived at the interview in a linen shirt, khaki pants, white tennis shoes and no handcuffs. He has one accessory: a black cloth rosary that he wears around his wrist. Morales, who said he is Catholic, conceded that he doesn't use the rosary to pray but wears it because almost all the inmates wear one. "I'm not really a person who goes to church every week," he said. Instead, the man who parlayed City Hall connections, and cash payoffs, into a lucrative living sees the rosaries as a business opportunity. "I'm going to start making them and selling them," he said. "Something to get by until I see what happens."
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Coveted county job given to girlfriend of commissioner -- but she only lasts 2 days
October 4, 2007
BY STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org
Cook County Board President Todd Stroger this week hired the girlfriend of his powerful ally, Commissioner William Beavers, for a coveted county job.
But after the Chicago Sun-Times began inquiring Wednesday about the hiring of Patty Young, she was taken off the payroll.
Both Young and Beavers initially denied she was a county employee, but other employees confirmed she had been working there.
Young later said she decided not to accept the job in the county Purchasing Department -- where she would have reported to the wife of Stroger's best friend -- because it didn't pay enough.
"The county offered me a job, but I decided not to take it," Young said. "I don't know who offered it to me, but it wasn't enough money, so I didn't take it. It's got to be the right situation."
By late Wednesday, though, a county spokeswoman confirmed Young had been tapped by Stroger as an administrative assistant and had worked from Monday until Wednesday, when "a mutual decision was reached to reverse the hire." The spokeswoman said Young won't be paid for the days she worked.
The county denied a request from the Sun-Times for a copy of Young's application or resume and refused to divulge her salary.
Young has been on stress leave from her job with the Chicago Department of Transportation since June.
A former co-worker told the Sun-Times recently that she "never wrote any citations, hardly did any work and spent most of her time in the office just walking around."
Young denies that but says she took the leave of absence after her boss allegedly harassed her with racist and sexist comments.
City officials couldn't be reached to say whether Young ever notified them of any change in her job status this week.
The county Purchasing Department where Young briefly worked is headed by Carmen Triche-Colvin, wife of state Rep. Marlow Colvin (D-Chicago). Stroger's cousin Vincent Jones is the top deputy of the department, which is responsible for contracts for county goods and services.
Commissioner Forrest Claypool bemoaned "the latest installment of the Todd Stroger friends and family hiring plan," adding that Young's hiring "is not surprising. It's Cook County-style nepotism and patronage."
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
The city’s lawyers claim a gag order prevents them from discussing the strange deal they made to settle police torture lawsuits. There’s no order.
By Chicago Reader's John Conroy
September 28, 2007
Note: This story has been updated at the end since it was originally published.
A secret agreement that benefits only Mayor Daley. A mysterious side issue that stops a settlement in its tracks. Lawyers refusing to talk because of a gag order that nobody ordered. What’s going on? Why doesn’t the city settle with three victims of police torture and stop paying private attorneys public money to negotiate with them?
Two lawyers are at the heart of this story—Mara Georges, who’s the city’s corporation counsel, and Terrence Burns, an attorney with Dykema Gossett who was hired to defend the city against civil suits that accuse Chicago police officers of torture. Madison Hobley, Stanley Howard, Leroy Orange, and Aaron Patterson collectively spent more than half a century on death row before they were pardoned in 2003 by Governor George Ryan. They filed their suits not long after.
It became apparent during the settlement talks that the Hobley, Howard, and Orange cases would be the easiest to close, and the city focused on them. Last October a deal was at hand. The city agreed to pay a total of $14.8 million in damage claims and attorneys’ fees. And as the Reader revealed this summer (“The Meter’s Still Running and the Mayor’s Still Mum,” July 6), the plaintiffs agreed to accept four secret conditions written to protect Mayor Daley.
The plaintiffs would not name Mayor Richard Daley as a defendant “in a civil rights, obstruction of justice, and racketeering conspiracy . . . and they would not seek a finding of liability and damages from Daley for his alleged conspiratorial actions while serving as Cook County State’s Attorney.”
They wouldn’t pursue Daley’s deposition.
They wouldn’t criticize Daley in any public statements made in connection with the settlement.
These terms would remain secret and would not be put in the written agreement.
Daley was Cook County’s state’s attorney from 1980 to 1989. During that time Hobley, Orange, Howard, and Patterson were interrogated as murder suspects by detectives who either were serving or had served under Commander Jon Burge. By 1993 allegations of torture had risen to such a pitch that after a Police Board hearing Burge was thrown off the force. But those allegations first surfaced at a time when Daley could have looked into them, and his office did nothing.
According to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, and as we reported in July, the two sides came to terms last November 3. When they met on December 27 before Judge Marvin Aspen, who’d been mediating the talks, the city gave no indication of any problem. Assured that a settlement was at hand, Madison Hobley signed a contract to buy a house. Soon, however, Burns let it be known that a problem had arisen. This was an issue, he said, that had nothing directly to do with the three cases, but it needed to be resolved and he couldn’t tell the plaintiffs what it was. Presumably Burns told Judge Aspen. On January 11 Aspen informed the plaintiffs that the “minor” issue had been resolved and the paperwork could be completed in a matter of days.
But weeks passed. At a status hearing on February 13, Burns said the mysterious issue was still not resolved, there was no telling when it would be, the plaintiffs could do nothing to clear it up, and he had no idea when the city would sign the agreement.
An April 5 pleading by plaintiffs’ attorneys described the moment: “In the presence of a room full of lawyers and his clerks, [Aspen said] that the City’s conduct was ‘unprecedented’ in his many years of experience, and that while he would not say that City attorney Burns ‘acted in bad faith,’ he ‘could not say the same for his client.’” Aspen’s been a federal judge since 1979.
The plaintiffs have spent the last seven months arguing that as of last October 23, when they accepted the city’s $14.8 million offer, they and the city had a done deal, a “meeting of the minds” that under federal case law constitutes a binding and enforceable settlement agreement, whether or not it was signed. In their view the “secret” issue has no bearing on the agreement, not having arisen until two months after the parties came to terms.
But Burns and Georges, the lawyers for the city, say otherwise, and because they do, Hobley eventually had to forfeit his $2,500 deposit. Burns claims there’s no agreement because the City Council hasn’t approved it. Here’s what’s funny about that: the aldermen, to judge by recent rhetoric, are eager to settle the cases but can’t approve this agreement because Burns and Georges have never presented it to them.
Burns has argued that the negotiations failed but the city can’t explain why they failed because Judge Aspen—and magistrate judge Michael Mason, who also played a role—ordered that the negotiations be kept confidential. That sounds as though a judge imposed a gag order, but Mason’s deputy clerk and a former clerk for Aspen, on duty until last week, both have told the Reader that there wasn’t one.
According to a courthouse regular who’s familiar with Aspen’s mediation procedures, there was surely “an implicit understanding of confidentiality.” But such an understanding always exists when court-supervised settlements are being negotiated. And when the negotiations are over there’s no enforceable judicial order forbidding anyone from saying what went on in chambers. An implicit understanding falls far short of what Georges’s first deputy, Karen Seimetz, told the City Council Finance Committee on September 4. The committee was discussing a resolution submitted by aldermen Howard Brookins and Ed Smith that expressed outrage at the “estimated $10 million in legal fees accumulated defending both the city and the accused officers” and demanded that the payments cease and the Finance Committee swiftly approve a settlement in all outstanding cases. Seimetz responded that she was barred by a judicial order from discussing the settlement negotiations in the Hobley, Howard, and Orange cases. Brookins was furious. “We are the client,” he said. “She cannot be precluded from telling us what happened in court. She represents us.”
At that point committee chairman Edward Burke adjourned the public meeting in favor of a closed executive session of the Finance Committee. Brookins, not being a committee member, was kept outside. Georges herself spoke, but when the committee’s members emerged they said, according to the Chicago Tribune, that they couldn’t reveal what they’d heard, “citing warnings they received not to violate the court order.”
But there was no court order. Burns has not even consistently acted as if he thought there was. In his March 22 response to a plaintiff’s motion to enforce the settlement, Burns claimed to be operating under orders of confidentiality imposed by Aspen and Mason. But on the next page he apparently violated those orders—if they existed—by reporting what Aspen said and did not say during settlement discussions.
In the wake of the September 4 Finance Committee meeting, WBBM radio reported that Seimetz indicated one “holdout plaintiff” was holding up the settlement of the suits. But this plaintiff, Aaron Patterson, wasn’t even part of the Hobley, Orange, and Howard mediation so he wasn’t in much of a position to hold it up. There’s no apparent reason why the city can’t settle with Hobley, Orange, and Howard now and with Patterson later—indeed, in the wake of the September 4 meeting Alderman Toni Preckwinkle described the close-all-or-none approach as a “stupid legal strategy.”
For one thing, every day the Hobley, Orange, and Howard suits remain unsettled costs the city money—four private firms are being paid to represent the city and the individual defendants. And even when those suits, and Patterson’s too, are settled, the Burge civil-suit nightmare won’t be over. There’s now a fifth suit—it’s been filed by Darrell Cannon, the former El Rukn general released from prison this year who describes being tortured with a cattle prod in 1983.
Last fall, after terms were reached in the Hobley, Orange, and Howard suits, Judge Aspen held a mediation session in the Patterson case. Burns, Georges, Aspen, representatives of the city’s insurance company, and Patterson’s attorney, Frank Avila, were present. According to a source who’s spoken with two of the people who attended, Avila had sought assurances in advance from Burns that the negotiations would be swift (the Hobley, Orange, and Howard cases have taken years to settle) and a reasonable offer would be on the table from the get-go, but Avila got no reply. At the meeting, an offer of $1 million so infuriated Avila that at one point, when the judge wasn’t there, he said something on the order of “This is bullshit. Fuck you.” Given the timing of the meeting and the city’s stated desire to settle all four cases at once, it seems likely that the failure to settle with Patterson is Burns’s “mysterious issue.”
Avila won’t comment on what happened at that meeting, but he does believe the failure of Burns and Georges to settle with Patterson killed the deal in the other three cases. Avila says his client would accept around $5 million, maybe less if certain terms are met. One proposal would have Patterson, who recently received a 30-year prison sentence on federal drug and gun charges, shaving a million dollars off the settlement in exchange for a two-hour meeting with the mayor at which he would discuss prosecutorial misconduct and other matters. (Patterson met privately with Governor Ryan on Ryan’s last day in office, having been freed from death row the day before.)
Burns didn’t respond to questions submitted to him by the Reader last Friday asking why he seemed to be claiming there’d been a gag order when there hadn’t and why—if he thought there was one—he apparently violated it himself. Georges got the same questions and answered some of them. She said there was no written order but asserted that Judge Aspen had orally directed the parties to keep quiet and “the City has not violated the judge’s direction.”
As both Burns and Georges are supposed to represent the city’s interests, their negotiation of the secret clauses might give some aldermen pause. Did Burns and Georges intend to reveal those clauses to the council at some point? And who do Burns and Georges work for anyway? If a council member wanted to add his or her own secret clause, would Burns and Georges try to negotiate it? And presumably the plaintiffs didn’t accept the secret clauses just to be good sports—how much will those clauses cost the city?
Georges received stunningly bad reviews for her testimony in last year’s trial of Robert Sorich, the mayor’s longtime patronage chief. Georges testified that she was unaware of political influence in hiring. Jury foreman Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told the Tribune she was the prosecution’s least credible witness, and federal judge David Coar, who presided over the trial, said, “I found the Mara Georges position in all of this incredible.”
But Mayor Daley likes her. After Sorich was convicted he was quoted in the Tribune saying Georges has been a “very, very good corporation counsel . . . full of integrity, honesty, dedication.”
New developments in the settlement saga: Georges and Burns were to be grilled at Wednesday’s meeting of the Finance Committee; instead the committee passed Alderman Ed Smith’s motion to table the issue for two weeks. Smith, who’d earlier sponsored a resolution urging a settlement and an end to funding the private law firms involved in the case, indicated that the landscape was likely to change quickly.
In the discussion of Smith’s motion it became apparent that mediation with Judge Aspen had resumed on Tuesday and that the city had made an offer. It must have been a good one—plaintiffs attorney Flint Taylor supported Smith’s motion.
As to the alleged gag order, Georges told the committee that she’d clarified with Aspen the day before that the parties were bound to silence, though no written order said so. But mediation had resumed that day, putting standard mediation procedures requiring confidentiality back into effect.
CITY HALL | Inspector general pushed aside after rooting out corruption
9/9/07 BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist
David Hoffman has good reason to look weary. One, he's a new dad whose 2-week-old infant son is keeping him up at night. And two, he's Chicago's independent inspector general, who has fallen out of favor with the mayor.
Funny, at exactly the same time Hoffman was off on a two-week paternity leave, the City Council with record speed rammed a new ordinance through committee one day and to the floor for a vote the next, creating a new Office of Compliance. And lo and behold, that new office is designed to do pretty much what Hoffman's has been doing: monitor city hiring to prevent political patronage abuse that the federal Shakman decree has declared unlawful.
In a time of budget austerity and threatened tax increases, why would the city create a new, expensive, redundant department? Maybe to subvert Hoffman, who has been doing his job a little too well. The David Hoffman who today has a target on his back is the same one who came to work for city government in 2005 amid much fanfare. Daley stood right next to him at a mayoral news conference, hailed Hoffman's arrival and offered his ''full support . . . to root out and prevent misconduct -- whether in hiring, contracts or wherever it occurs.''
Note: In the Daley Dictionary, "full support" is not a synonym for "enduring.''
Yes, Hoffman had an excellent resume. A former assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago with a Yale and University of Chicago Law School pedigree, he clerked for Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist.
And yes, back when he was appointed, the Daley administration really needed him to publicly prove its reform-mindedness. The Hired Truck scandal was raging, and a federal probe of city contracts and political hiring was expanding. It included the outrageous case of the city handing a $50,000-a-year building inspector job to a well-connected, utterly unqualified 19-year-old named Andy Ryan. Bad press required a new broom. But as Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman noted last month, "Now a marriage of necessity is showing serious signs of strain."
As Spielman reported, the mayor's office was not pleased when Hoffman recommended that Building Department boss Christopher Kozicki be fired for rigging the hiring of young Ryan. Kozicki, after all, was close to the Daleys. Or when Hoffman went after a Water Department foreman early this year for muscling co-workers to sign Daley mayoral nominating petitions. And City Hall sources say Law Department head and mayoral apparatchik Mara Georges did not like Hoffman's close working relationship with federal court hiring monitor Noelle Brennan, who helps make sure that the Shakman decree is followed.
Now it's showdown time. Pretty soon, U.S. District Court Judge Wayne Anderson will decide who will assume Brennan's duties once her work is finished. Brennan, as well as federal plaintiff Michael Shakman, believe it should be Hoffman, who has established a track record of integrity and independence. But the city, suddenly, wants yet another new broom. Hence, the creation of a suddenly necessary new watchdog agency headed by someone the mayor has yet to name.
Judge Anderson is not going to be suckered into buying any of this, I'm guessing.
But in the meantime, the Office of Compliance is off and running. Soon the mayor will announce who will head it. There undoubtedly will be another news conference like the one with David Hoffman. And the mayor, who no longer stands anywhere near his inspector general, will be at the side of his new appointee, pledging ''full support.''
New appointee, whoever you are, remember this:
David Hoffman isn't quitting. And under the law, the mayor can't fire him for another two years. Hoffman has established a track record of integrity and independence. But suddenly, the city wants yet another new broom.
Vanecko's feeding at public trough takes ethics back to the early '70s
September 25, 2007
BY MARK BROWN Sun-Times Columnist
Much has changed in Chicago since Mayor Richard J. Daley steered city insurance and law business to his sons in the early 1970s and then famously invited anybody who didn't like it to kiss his behind.
These days it's city pension business that's going not to the son but the nephew of Mayor Richard M. Daley, who not only makes no allusions to strategically positioned mistletoe, he says he didn't even know anything about his nephew's good fortune.
We've come a long way, baby.
If that seems overly cynical, sorry, but it's stories like this that tend to make us that way. I hope you caught Sunday's report by our investigative ace, Tim Novak, but if you missed it, here's the gist:
The mayor's nephew, Robert G. Vanecko, is a partner in a real estate venture that has received $68 million from five city-connected public pension funds. The venture is supposed to earn money for the pension funds by investing the $68 million in individual real estate projects of its choosing. The business just got started, so it's too early to say how well it's doing, but no matter how it does, Vanecko and his partner, mayoral ally Allison Davis, stand to collect at least $3 million in management fees from the arrangement. They could make as much as $8.4 million in fees alone over the course of their contract, which runs through 2014. That's aside from any profits they may make on the individual developments, which could include their own projects. In short, it's a nice deal if you can get it, which of course, you can't.
'I'm not on that board'
Naturally, though, everyone acts as if it's just a coincidence that it's the mayor's nephew who landed on this inside track. At an unrelated news conference Monday at Navy Pier, the mayor was asked by the Sun-Times' Fran Spielman if he thought this was a sound investment for the pension funds. "It doesn't matter," the mayor asserted. "They have to make their professional decisions. I'm not on that board. They make decisions. Pension boards do that every day." His comments ignored the fact that mayoral appointees serve on these pension boards and have been known to exert their influence, to put it nicely. The mayor was then asked if he would rather his nephew hadn't gotten involved with the pension funds. "Wait, wait, wait," Daley interrupted. "It could be any business. They could be in real estate. They could be in development. They could be in anything, and he's a professional young man, and he's going to make decisions."
As you probably appreciate, it's not a question of what profession the mayor's nieces and nephews have chosen to pursue, but whether they choose to pursue it while feeding at the public trough. Ever since the embarrassing revelations of the early '70's, the Daley family has seemed to operate under a philosophy that family members are either in government doing the people's business and settling for a public paycheck or they make a living in the private sector. There are exceptions, but unless we've missed something, they've drawn the line at working in the private sector while taking government contracts, a world where you can get rich at the public's expense. The Vanecko deal crosses that line. Vanecko, 42, is the son of the mayor's sister, Mary Carol. He was the first born of the late Mayor Daley's 22 grandkids.
The right people will know
Vanecko said he never told anyone at the pension funds about Uncle Rich.
"As a matter of practice, I don't disclose this relationship," he told the Sun-Times in an e-mail, choosing not to sit for an interview with Novak. "He is my uncle. I don't trade on his name." I'd guess he doesn't need to tell them. Whether he realizes it or not, there's always going to be somebody around to make sure the right people know. You can bet Allison Davis knew he was going into business with the mayor's nephew and understood the potential benefits of such a relationship, especially for a man whose business success is dependent on the continued goodwill of the city's political leadership. One of the projects Davis and Vanecko are eyeing is one of the big CHA redevelopment projects along the lakefront. They're going to need a lot of public subsidies to make that work. Back in the '70's, Richard J. Daley responded to his critics with a quotation from his mother: "There's a mistletoe hangin' from my coattail." Maybe it was my own mother who liked to say: The more things change the more they stay they same.
City withholds list of accused police
Lawyer had agreed to show aldermen
By David Heinzmann and Gary Washburn | Tribune staff reporters
October 3, 2007
The City of Chicago's top lawyer has denied at least one alderman's written request to see a list of Chicago police officers who have the most excessive force complaints during the last five years, a move that critics say contradicts what the lawyer told federal judges this summer.
Corporation Counsel Mara Georges recently sent a letter to Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), denying her Aug. 23 request for an unredacted list of Office of Professional Standards complaints.
In July, when the city was arguing in federal court to keep the documents secret, Georges assured the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that aldermen would have access to the confidential records.
"We have agreed to make the confidential documents available to any City Council member who requests them," Georges declared in the city's July 13 emergency motion seeking a stay of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow's order to unseal the records and make them available to the general public.
But in a letter dated Sept. 11, Georges referenced the same appellate court proceedings in turning down Preckwinkle's request.
"These documents are the subject of a pending appeal that seeks to maintain their confidentiality, and we wish to avoid any possibility that allowing them to be reviewed would affect that appeal," Georges wrote. "I hope you understand that I will, therefore, be unable to fulfill your request."
City officials maintain that they made good on the promise to provide the information when they provided copies of the documents with the officers' names blacked out to aldermen in late July, said spokeswoman Jodi Kawada.
The disagreement over the documents comes amid a widening scandal involving the Police Department's Special Operations Section. The documents show that SOS officers have received a disproportionately high number of excessive force complaints.
Georges' argument in the July 13 motion made no mention of redacting names from the documents. And the city's appeal addressed only community activist's motion to make the list public, said Craig Futterman, the University of Chicago law professor who in 2004 filed the original lawsuit that produced the list on behalf of alleged victims. The city's appeal did not challenge Lefkow's order to turn the whole list, including officer names, over to aldermen, Futterman said.
"The judge didn't say 'turn over a redacted list,'" Futterman said.
Preckwinkle said she has not yet made up her mind on possible action, though she is considering whether "I want to go to the judge directly and ask what does she suggest I do."
The alderman made her request after Georges made the assurances to the appellate court.
"It is disappointing, but not surprising," Preckwinkle said Tuesday. "It is sort of consistent with bad behavior by the corporation counsel all the way along. ... This is distressing."
The city has been fighting to keep the records under a protective order in federal court while Mayor Richard Daley announced changes to OPS that he claimed were designed to make the workings of the police oversight agency more transparent.
In recent months the SOS scandal has broadened on multiple fronts. In August the Tribune reported that federal prosecutors were joining the Cook County state's attorney in the investigation. State prosecutors already had brought charges against seven officers accused of robbing and falsely arresting people.
Federal authorities are interested in investigating whether police commanders committed crimes, as well as whether the internal affairs division looked the other way and allowed the SOS officers to continue operating for years despite complaints piling up.
Last week, U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald charged a suspended officer, Jerome Finnigan, with plotting to murder a former officer who had been in his unit and had begun cooperating with investigators.
A copy of the documents with police officers' names redacted was made public in July. The records show that the top four police officers on the list, who all had 50 or more misconduct complaints in five years, were members of SOS. The top 10 Special Operations Section officers with the most complaints on the list had a combined total of 408 complaints during five years. Of those complaints, only three were sustained by OPS, and only one resulted in a suspension -- for 15 days. The other two cases ended with reprimands.
One SOS officer was accused of misconduct 55 times, with none of the complaints sustained, according to the documents.
Daley last week defended the unit as a critical law enforcement tool that has been unfairly marred by a few bad apples.
The documents were produced in a lawsuit against police officers and given to the plaintiff under a protective order keeping it secret. After the case was settled this year, Lefkow ordered the protective order lifted, making the records public.
But city lawyers objected, and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals responded to Georges' July 13 motion by granting a stay while judges decide what to do about the case.
At a July 9 hearing before Lefkow, the judge said, "I do find it persuasive ... that aldermen of the city are interested in this information because it seems to me as our elected representatives they, of anyone, have an interest in this, a very legitimate interest."
The appellate court is expected to rule on the city's challenge later this fall.
CITY HALL | Gayles boosted minority participation
October 3, 2007
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
After delivering the $254 million Kennedy-King College with record levels of minority participation, Public Building Commission executive director Montel Gayles is in line to inherit one of City Hall's biggest headaches: the Department of Procurement Services.
City Hall sources said Gayles has emerged as the front-runner to replace Chief Procurement Officer Barbara Lumpkin, who resigned last week, leaving behind a department that has struggled to boost black contracting and weed out minority fronts.
Led Kennedy-King project
Only a 10 percent share of the city's purchasing pie is awarded to African Americans, despite years of outreach and more recent efforts to break down barriers -- by raising the maximum net worth for construction contracts to $2 million and reducing to 10 percent the bonding requirement for contracts over $100,000.
Gayles would be a logical choice for the $169,452-a-year job. After serving as chief of staff to Chicago Housing Authority chief Terry Peterson, Gayles took over the Daley-chaired Public Building Commission at a critical time.
The commission was struggling to complete the Kennedy-King project, which was bogged down by $62 million in cost overruns and years of construction delays caused in part by community demands for a piece of the action.
Gayles satisfied those demands by dividing the project into smaller chunks to attract more minority bidders. He also engineered a city bailout that included a $10 million city loan, $20 million from tax-increment financing and $15 million in funds generated by putting off other City Colleges projects.
STREETS AND SAN | Is it harassment because of suit? October 3, 2007
BY ERIC HERMAN Criminal Courts Reporter email@example.com
Michael Sullivan -- the Streets and Sanitation worker who battled city patronage in federal court -- has found himself on the wrong end of the law.
Sullivan, 44, was arrested last Wednesday after shoving a fellow employee while trying to enter an office in a Streets and Sanitation building on the 2400 block of South Ashland, according to the Cook County state's attorney's office.
Prosecutors charged Sullivan with one count of misdemeanor battery. At a hearing Thursday, a judge set his bond at $1,000.
Plaintiff with Shakman
Michael Shakman, the lawyer whose federal anti-patronage lawsuit Sullivan joined in 2005, said Sullivan's arrest "was the result of harassment that has been brewing there for a long time because he has been a whistleblower with respect to patronage practices."
The incident came seven weeks after Sullivan went back to court, claiming he was denied city overtime because he had become a plaintiff in Shakman's lawsuit.
In 2005, Sullivan alleged the Streets and Sanitation Department gave better assignments and more overtime to workers with political clout, especially those with ties to Cook County Commissioner John Daley, the mayor's brother.
The city settled that suit in March, creating a fund for those denied jobs and awarding $25,000 to Sullivan.
In August, Sullivan went to court to enforce the agreement, with Shakman as his lawyer.
As for last week's incident, Sullivan "contends there was no battery," Shakman said.
Streets and San spokesman Matt Smith said a "violence in the workplace" incident was under investigation. He declined further comment.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
'RAMPANT' PATRONAGE | Claims seek share of $12 million fund October 2, 2007
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
More than 1,400 people have staked claim to the $12 million fund created to compensate victims of City Hall's rigged hiring system, a federal monitor said Monday.
"It tells me what everyone has known all along: Political patronage continued to run rampant" in spite of the Shakman decree, said Ald. Joe Moore (49th).
Attorney Michael Shakman's landmark lawsuit was supposed to end political hiring and firing, but didn't.
Shakman suspects the number of victims is greater than 1,443. But some people are afraid of retribution, some chose to file their own lawsuits and others were unaware the reason they didn't get the job was the interviews were rigged, he said.
Referring to the 2006 trial that ended in the conviction of Mayor Daley's former patronage chief, Shakman said, "We know from the [Robert] Sorich trial that it was a wholesale process of rigged interviews and illegal hiring."
The $12 million fund is part of a settlement that allows the city to get out from under the Shakman decree on Dec. 31, 2008, if it can prove substantial compliance at that time.
Individual awards, capped at $100,000, will apply only to those who can prove they've been bypassed for jobs and promotions since Jan. 1, 2000.
On Monday, federal hiring monitor Noelle Brennan said 1,443 people filed claims by Friday's deadline and "hundreds" of those claims poured in at the end of last week.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
POLICE BRUTALITY | Establishing a base in Chicago, he plans to pressure mayor, state's attorney BY LISA DONOVAN Staff Reporteremail@example.com
The Rev. Al Sharpton is coming to town.
The brash New York minister's civil rights organization is opening a Chicago chapter this week, in part to pressure Mayor Daley and the Cook County state's attorney's office to deal more swiftly with police officers accused of brutality. Controversy often follows the Rev. Al Sharpton, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination three years ago.
"There's been a consistent pattern of police misconduct, and a lot of people feel Daley has been getting a pass," Sharpton said.
He said that a zero-tolerance policy toward police misconduct must emanate from the city's highest elected office.
Sharpton, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, said his National Action Network has pushed for police to be held to the same standards as anyone accused of violent crime.
"As one that has worked police brutality cases successfully from Abner Louima on, I've gotten police officers . . . convicted," Sharpton said, referring to the high-profile New York police beating of a Haitian immigrant in 1997.
"You hear about problems in Chicago, but you don't hear what was done about those cases."
A spokesman for Cook County's top prosecutor says the office doesn't shy away from charging police officers.
"In the 11 years that Dick Devine has been state's attorney we have charged at least one police officer a month. That's more than 130 police officers who have been charged," said John Gorman, a Devine spokesman. "This office has an unblemished record of prosecuting any police officer where there is sufficient evidence to charge."
Sharpton has had his own controversies, dating back to the 1987 Tawana Brawley case, in which the minister led protests on rape allegations. The 15-year-old eventually admitted she made up the story that six white officers raped her.
Jackson: We'll work together
The announcement that Sharpton will be opening up shop in Chicago comes as the mayor prepares to name a new police superintendent.
An attempt to reach a spokesman for the mayor was unsuccessful.
Sharpton is already a regular voice in Chicago with his syndicated radio show broadcast on WVON-AM (1690).
Now Sharpton, these days thinner in body and pompadour, will become a regular face here -- moving in on territory where the Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow PUSH/Coalition are firmly rooted.
Heading Sharpton's Chicago effort is a civil rights force in her own right. A South Sider, chapter president Jeri Wright, 41, is the daughter of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor to presidential hopeful and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.
Jackson said he'll work with Sharpton, as he has in the past. Earlier this year, they teamed up to push CBS to fire Don Imus after the radio host made controversial comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team. But Jackson sees Sharpton's Chicago mission as somewhat duplicative of his and other local civil rights groups.
"We've been focusing on the Jon Burge torture cases," through radio and cable access programming, Jackson said. "We confronted . . . music distributors on language degrading women -- those are cultural issues.
"On the other hand, the disparity in educational funding, the disparity in health care, the disparity in sentencing, the gun laws that deny people equal protection under the law -- these are the great civil rights issues of our time."
August 9, 2007
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
The Chicago Police Department is "not out of control," Mayor Daley said Wednesday, urging family members and community leaders angry about the death of two men at the hands of police in the last week to await the outcome of internal investigations.
"Every day, Chicago Police are called. They get thousands of calls. Yes, these are two instances. They're very serious instances. They're . . . looking at it. But this is not an easy job out there," the mayor said.
Gefery Johnson, 42, died Saturday after police used a Taser and pepper spray to subdue him at his Gresham home after being summoned by family members.
Two days later, police shot and killed 18-year-old Aaron Harrison in the West Side's North Lawndale community after Harrison allegedly pointed a gun at an officer chasing him on foot.
On Wednesday, Daley withheld judgment on whether police officers acted properly. But he did not hesitate when asked about the angry reaction to the Monday night shooting. Residents threw bottles at police during what was described as a near-riot.
"Anybody starts throwing bottles at anyone else -- it's not respectful. I mean -- you may disagree or something like that. But you have to withhold" judgment, he said.
He also didn't hesitate when asked whether the community reaction to both incidents stems from distrust that the newly revamped Office of Professional Standards will conduct its investigations fairly.
"No. Historically, people don't like police. . . . They like you when they come. But they don't like the results," Daley said.
Meanwhile, some West Side church ministers and Harrison's relatives are expected to call on the U.S. Justice Department today to conduct a separate investigation on this week's shooting.
"There are a lot people who know about the shooting, but they don't feel secure talking to the police and they don't trust them," said the Rev. Robin Hood, pastor of Redeemed Outreach Ministries Church.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
CHICAGO POLICE | List of officers with more than 10 complaints remains a secret
July 17, 2007
BY FRANK MAIN AND ABDON M. PALLASCH Staff Reporters
Records involving cops with more than 10 complaints against them will remain secret until a federal appeals court decides whether to make them public.
The city is trying to keep the potentially embarrassing documents under wraps. They include a list of 662 Chicago Police officers -- one of every 20 cops on the 13,200-member force -- with more than 10 civilian complaints lodged against them between 2001 and 2006.
A week ago, U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow ordered the city to release the list, but the city appealed. On Monday, just before the 5 p.m. deadline that Lefkow imposed for the documents to be released, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the city a stay that keeps them secret until the court can decide if they are public. "The city of Chicago spends unprecedented resources fighting to keep from the public the data about how the Police Department polices itself -- while at the same time, they publicly profess the virtues of openness and transparency," said Jon Loevy, an attorney seeking to bring the documents to light.
Some have more than 30 complaints
The list will show if a complaint against an officer was "sustained" and if it resulted in discipline -- or if the department deemed it to be "unsustained" or "unfounded" or determined the officer was "exonerated."
The records will identify some officers who have received more than 30 complaints but who did not face any "meaningful" discipline, Loevy said. The documents also will identify the police units with the highest concentrations of cops with 10 or more complaints against them.
"Most police officers do their jobs without attracting any complaints," Loevy said. "It's this tiny portion that cause most of the problems." Critics of the department hoped the documents would surface before Thursday, when the City Council is scheduled to consider a proposed ordinance that would change the office that investigates complaints against cops. Under the measure, the head of the Office of Professional Standards would report to the mayor and not to the police superintendent; summaries of the investigations would become public, and OPS investigators would receive subpoena power. Loevy called those changes "window dressing" and a "P.R. stunt."
The information on complaints against cops was gathered by attorneys for Diane Bond, who sued the city claiming she was abused by officers working in a Chicago Public Housing building on the South Side in 2003. She received a $150,000 settlement from the city, records show. Loevy represents Jamie Kalven, a writer who entered the case as a third party to make the documents public. "We're at a kind of historic moment in the city in terms of real and meaningful police reforms, and the information in the disputed documents is directly relevant to the public debate that's going on right now," Kalven said. A spokeswoman for the city's Law Department did not return a call, but in court papers the city argues that the documents should not be released because they did not become part of the court proceedings in Bond's lawsuit and would invade the officers' privacy. On July 9, Lefkow ruled that the documents were still presumed to be public, writing "the public has a significant interest in monitoring the conduct of its police officers and a right to know how allegations of misconduct are being investigated and handled."
POLICE | Activist calls it a stunt ahead of Council vote
July 18, 2007
BY FRANK MAIN, FRAN SPIELMAN AND ABDON M. PALLASCH Staff Reporters
Two days before a key City Council vote on the way claims of Chicago Police misconduct are investigated, the Daley administration quietly provided aldermen Tuesday with a controversial list of 662 officers with 10 or more complaints against them over the past five years.
But there was a catch: the names on the list -- which the administration has been fighting in federal court to keep secret -- were blacked out.
An activist trying to force the city to make the list public sees Tuesday's release to aldermen as a way for Mayor Daley to defuse opposition just before a Thursday City Council vote to reform the police department's Office of Professional Standards. The office investigates police misconduct.
"The names are the essence of it -- this feels a little bit like a desperate stunt on the part of the city with the vote of the City Council fast approaching," activist Jamie Kalven said.
Pfleger, Jackson want list
Earlier Tuesday, activist priest Michael Pfleger urged Daley to release the full list. After appearing with Daley to publicize a gun turn-in, Pfleger said the list and other secret documents would help the public understand how the Police Department investigates complaints against cops. "We need to know the officers that there's a lot of complaints against," he said.
The mayor put Pfleger on a panel to recommend changes to OPS. On Thursday, aldermen are expected to vote on some of the panel's suggestions, such as making OPS answer to the mayor and not the police superintendent. Some aldermen don't think the reforms go far enough.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who also appeared with Daley Tuesday, echoed Pfleger, saying, "If police dishonor their badge by being brutal, they should be removed and they should be exposed."
Daley said he cannot make the documents public because the city's contract with the Fraternal Order of Police prevents the release of personnel data. The documents were sealed when they were turned over to Diane Bond, who sued the police department claiming she was abused by officers in 2003.
This month, a federal judge ruled the documents were public. The city appealed. Daley said he will wait for an appeals court to decide.
July 18, 2007
BY STEVE WARMBIR Staff Reporteremail@example.com
Outfit hit man Nicholas Calabrese on Tuesday implicated a close friend of Mayor Daley's, Fred Barbara, as taking part in the bombing of a suburban restaurant in the early 1980s. Calabrese is the star witness in the Family Secrets mob case and testified that Barbara, now a multimillionaire businessman, was one of six men who split up into teams to throw bombs on the roofs of two restaurants. Barbara has never been charged in the case but allegedly teamed up with Chicago mob captain Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra and reputed mob killer James DiForti to bomb Horwath's Restaurant in Elmwood Park, which was a well-known hangout for mobsters.
FAMILY SECRETS TRIAL
On Tuesday: Star witness Nicholas Calabrese described a series of mob bombings and murders he took part in and implicates a close mayoral friend in the bombing of a suburban restaurant from the early 1980s.
Expected today: Nicholas Calabrese will detail even more Outfit murders.
On the same night, Calabrese allegedly joined up with his brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., and reputed Outfit killer John Fecarotta to throw a bomb on the roof of Tom's Steak House in Melrose Park. Nicholas Calabrese testified he didn't know why mob higher-ups targeted the restaurants. They shared a common owner.
It's not the first time Barbara has been accused of having ties to the Chicago mob.
Barbara was arrested in 1982 with three reputed mobsters, including his cousin, Frank "Tootsie Babe" Caruso, in an extortion sting set up by the FBI. A federal jury acquitted Barbara and the others. In a court filing in that case, prosecutors said Barbara was "believed to be a major participant" in the illegal gambling operation run by LaPietra. Barbara is a nephew of the late Ald. Fred Roti, who has been identified as a made member of the Chicago mob. Barbara has made millions of dollars through the years in trucking and real-estate deals with the city of Chicago. Nicholas Calabrese's testimony made clear he did not see Barbara and other mobsters bomb Horwath's. Calabrese was busy bombing the restaurant he was responsible for. But when all the men met back after their work was done, the Horwath's group made clear their bomb went off, Calabrese said. Barbara could not be reached for comment but has disavowed any connection to organized crime.
"Show me my connection to organized crime," Barbara said in an interview three years ago with the Sun-Times. "Did I turn the corner? You show me anything in the last 24 years that reflects to that nature." A spokeswoman for the mayor could not be reached for comment. In a full day of testimony, the mention of Barbara was a small part of Nicholas Calabrese's testimony.
Nicholas Calabrese described a series of arsons he did for the mob. He also detailed how he killed people for the Outfit, allegedly with his brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., who sat just yards away from him in court and appeared to suppress a smirk throughout the testimony. Nicholas Calabrese has pleaded guilty and admitted to killing at least 14 people for the mob. As part of his plea deal, he is testifying against his brother and other reputed mob leaders.
Nicholas Calabrese testified that when Frank Calabrese Sr. told him in 1970 they were going to have to find a place to dig a hole for a body, he figured his brother was kidding. It was to be his first mob murder. The brothers found a spot, inside a factory that was being built a few blocks away from White Sox park. They lured a man, Michael "Hambone" Albergo, who Frank Calabrese Sr. feared would testify against him in a juice loan investigation, Nick Calabrese testified. Inside a car, Nicholas Calabrese held one of Albergo's arms while another henchman held the other, and Frank Calabrese strangled the man with a rope, Nicholas Calabrese testified. Frank Calabrese Sr. slit the throat of Albergo even though he was already dead, just to make sure, Nicholas Calabrese testified.
They dumped him in a hole they had dug, threw lime in and filled the hole with dirt. "At this point, I wet my pants I was so scared," Nicholas Calabrese said.
In another murder in Cicero in 1978, Nicholas Calabrese and Frank Calabrese Sr. teamed up with other mob killers to rub out two men in a closed restaurant -- one had run crossways with the Outfit, the other was an innocent bystander, Calabrese testified. The brothers referred to the killings by code, calling the Cicero one "Strangers in the Night." It was the song playing on the restaurant jukebox as the Calabrese brothers allegedly killed the men, Nicholas Calabrese said.
In another murder in 1978 of burglar John Mendell, Calabrese Sr. strangled him, while Nicholas Calabrese helped hold the man down, Nicholas Calabrese testified.
This time, Calabrese Sr. allegedly gave his brother the knife to make sure the burglar was dead.
Contributing: Shamus Toomey and Carol Marin
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
Thursday, March 22, 2007
March 22, 2007
BY FRAN SPIELMAN AND STEVE WARMBIR Staff Reporters
Mayor Daley agreed Wednesday to establish a $12 million fund to compensate victims of City Hall’s rigged hiring system and abandon his five-year-old effort to vacate the federal Shakman decree banning political hiring.
“I don’t believe this is the cost of corruption…This settlement is illustrative of the city’s desire to move forward with its reform efforts…It’s a new day…We are going to have no tolerance for anyone gaming the system,” said Chief of Staff Ron Huberman.
Plaintiff Michael Shakman said the city “should have fixed its hiring system a long time ago” — long before Daley’s patronage chief was convicted of rigging city hiring.
“The mayor has an opportunity. He’s either going to be remembered by history as the mayor who presided over the last big-city hiring machine or the mayor who fixed it,” said Shakman, whose 1969 lawsuit triggered the long-running dispute over political hiring and firing in Chicago.
The $12 million fund, disclosed last month by the Chicago Sun-Times, would be administered by federal hiring monitor Noelle Brennan, who would become a fixture at City Hall — at least for the next 21 months.
The agreement establishes a $100,000 cap on individual damages. The awards will apply only to those who can prove they’ve been bypassed for city jobs and promotions since Jan. 1, 2000. Last year alone, 120,000 people applied for city jobs.
“We anticipate the quantity of applicants will be extremely high… The monitors will have to set up a process to establish standards. They’ll have to say, `This dollar compensation requires this level of evidence,’ “ Huberman said.
Brennan, whose team has already been paid $1.65 million in legal fees, said the amounts paid out will depend on how many claims forms are submitted. Corporation Counsel Mara Georges said the monitor has been directed to interpret claims “liberally.”
“She’ll be looking to the city if she has a question about a particular hiring sequence and say, `Let me see the documents.’ If we’re unable to demonstrate..that the most qualified people were hired, I would think she would hold those claims valid,” Georges said.
The out-of-court settlement requires the mayor and city department heads, on or after Dec. 31, 2008, to sign certificates of compliance. It opens the door for City Hall to get out from under the Shakman decree. It will be up to Brennan to determine whether “substantial compliance” has, in fact occurred.
Until that time, Brennan will remain the city’s hiring czar. A new hiring system is expected to be put in place by April 30 that relies heavily on lotteries for so-called “willing-and-able” positions where tests are not relevant.
The agreement also envisions a key role for Inspector General David Hoffman.
After May 31, Hoffman will become the primary investigator for hiring abuses with the power to recommend disciplinary action and even prosecution. The inspector general’s investigations could ultimately lead to monetary damages after a new city arbitration process. A new executive order will require city employees to report complaints of political discrimination to the inspector general.
“This is an important milestone in creating a system of integrity in city hiring….Given the proper resources, we will be able to become a strong independent watchdog to ensure integrity in hiring and promotions,” said Hoffman, who was directed to try to wrap up each hiring investigation within six months.
Another key element of the agreement is the additional flexibility it affords the city in filling top jobs.
Instead of honoring the city’s request to more than double the 1,186 policymaking jobs exempt from the Shakman decree, the agreement creates a new category of 935 senior management jobs. Political considerations will be verboten, but the hiring process for those jobs will be expedited. Department heads will have more discretion. Referrals will be permitted.
“We now have the additional flexibility we’re seeking…Commissioners and other individuals can make specific referrals of names to add to a hiring list and it’s an expedited process that doesn’t go through all the normal hoops,” Huberman said.
The terms are expected to go over like a lead balloon with Chicago aldermen, who have accused Brennan of invading their turf. They have also railed repeatedly about the monitor’s legal fees, her ever-expanding role in city hiring and about the effect those controls have had on their ability to deliver neighborhood services and get their people placed in top jobs.
“We’re very concerned about the diversity issue,” said Ald. Ed Smith (28th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus.
Brennan was appointed in August, 2005 by a federal judge livid with the city for making a mockery of the Shakman decree, which was supposed to end political hiring and firing.
Eleven months later, Daley’s former patronage chief was convicted of rigging city hiring and promotions to benefit pro-Daley armies of political workers.
BY NATASHA KORECKI AND FRAN SPIELMAN Staff Reporters
A federal grand jury has indicted Al Sanchez, a former top aide to Mayor Daley who also was a key leader of the mayor's Hispanic Democratic Organization, authorities said.
The charges against Sanchez, who was the city's Streets and Sanitation commissioner from 1999 until 2005, come as prosecutors continue to probe promotion and hiring practices at City Hall.
Indicted with Sanchez was Aaron del Valle, who recently mounted an unsuccessful campaign for 25th ward alderman against incumbent Daniel Solis. Del Valle — who finished fifth out of seven candidates in the Feb. 27 election, also worked for HDO and in the Department of Streets and Sanitation.
During Sanchez's tenure in the city agency, hundreds of members of HDO, which was a key source of political workers for the mayor, got jobs there and in other city departments.
Asked earlier today if his client had been charged or if he expected charges, Sanchez lawyer Daniel Pierce said: "Not to my knowledge." He could not be reached for comment after the indictment was unsealed.
Late last year, prosecutors charged John Resa, a city Water Management Department worker and HDO coordinator, with lying to a grand jury. Prosecutors charged that, when he wanted to reward HDO campaign workers with city jobs or promotions, Resa would turn to someone identified only as "Individual A." Sources have identified Sanchez as "Individual A."
Sanchez left his city post in June 2005, when a city hiring scandal was escalating.
Sanchez was a founding member of HDO, which Mayor Daley started in the early 1990s. HDO grew to about 500 members. Sanchez began working for the city in 1974 and became a key member of the 10th Ward Democratic organiation of then-political powerhouse Edward R. Vrdolyak.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
U.S. District Judge Wayne Andersen asked both sides to return to court on May 31 for a hearing on whether to give final approval to the settlement, which would also require approval from the Chicago City Council.
The 1983 decree resulted from a lawsuit filed more than 30 years ago by attorney Michael Shakman, who has feuded with City Hall over patronage abuses ever since.
The city has tried in court to get out from under the ban.
In 2005, Andersen appointed a federal monitor to keep an eye on city hiring after Mayor Richard M. Daley's former patronage chief was arrested on charges that he and others conspired to rig the city's hiring process. They were convicted last summer by a federal jury.
The court-appointed monitor concluded in December 2006 that while there had been improvements at City Hall to reform hiring, there remained "pockets of resistance" from employees and a small group of aldermen who "have openly expressed a preference for a patronage system," where jobs are doled out based on political loyalty, the monitor's report said.
That court-appointed monitor has said the Shakman decree had been violated almost since its inception.
Daley has defended his administration's efforts to clean up city hiring.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
BY STEVE PATTERSON AND STEVE WARMBIR Staff Reporters
Cook County officials are investigating whether hospital contracts were doled out to firms using unqualified workers or, in some cases, firms not doing the work at all.
Board President Todd Stroger was vague in announcing findings Monday by hospital chief Dr. Robert Simon, but a spokesman said there are "specific instances" of concern involving "mismanagement and impropriety."
Stroger's announcement mentioned "a number of contracts" involving "managerial services." The announcement also noted that Simon has ousted "several" hospital leaders involved with billing, which has been a major source of budget shortfalls in the hospital system.
The findings have been forwarded to both the state's attorney and inspector general.
Billing and collections at the hospital have long been a concern of commissioners. They have repeatedly asked about the number of companies doing the work and how much each is collecting -- and have been getting few answers.
Janitorial deal approved. Also Monday, the county board voted 9-8 on Stroger's request to approve a no-bid contract with a cleaning company that has ties to Stroger's political organization and to Cicero-based mob figures.
We Clean Maintenance & Supply got the $357,000 contract to clean the county building for the next 135 days, replacing county janitors laid off because of budget cuts.
Company officials, citing the "security of our clients," declined to comment.
By August, county officials expect to award a competitively bid cleaning contract.
We Clean is headed by Julie Leopold, mother of Anthony Leopold, who testified in the criminal trial of ex-Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese that the firm was loaned money by Michael Spano Jr., son of town mob boss Michael Spano Sr. Leopold paid some of the money back to Spano, but also to another man convicted in the case, John LaGiglio.
The $179,000, it was revealed, was illegally pilfered from town funds and led to Loren-Maltese's conviction.
Monday, March 19, 2007
IDOT among state , municipal contractors overcharged estimated $5.5 million
Springfield, IL--Roger Heaton, US Attorney for the Central District of Illinois, announced that the principal owner of Shah Engineering, Inc., Manu Shah, entered pleas of guilty to overcharging the Illinois Department of Transportation and other state and municipal entities from 1997 to 2004. Shah, age 70, of Oak Brook, is the sole shareholder, owner, operator of Shah Engineering in Chicago.
A federal investigation of Shah Engineering's business practices was initiated by the Illinois Department of Transportation following a department audit in January 2004. Manu Shah plead guilty to two counts of mail fraud and one charge of submitting false documents to IDOT auditors as charged. The corporation has agreed to plead guilty to one count of mail fraud as charged at a 2/27/07 hearing.
Pursuant to the plea agreement, there was no final determination of the amounts over billed which will have to be repaid as restitution; however Shah is required to deposit $2.5 million with the US Clerk of the Court within 15 days of the date the plea agreement was filed, January 23, 2007. Thereafter, Shah is required to deposit $1 million every 30 days until the $5.5 million is held in escrow to be used to pay restitution to the agencies defrauded and/ or a fine. At sentencing, the government has agreed to recommend to the court that Shah be sentenced to 41 months imprisonment, and that Shah's firm be fined $500,000 and placed on probation. Sentencing for Shah is scheduled for June 4, 2007, before US District Judge Jeanne E. Scott. The information and plea agreements reflect that Shah Engineering Inc. was a primary contractor or subcontractor on various projects for engineering and architectural services for IDOT and other state government agencies as well as for the city of Chicago from 1997 through 2005. These entities include the following: Illinois State Tollway, Metra, Chicago Department of Transportation, City of Chicago, Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago Department of Aviation, Chicago Department of Construction and Permits, Chicago Park District, Chicago Department of Sewers, Chicago Department of Water and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago. Shah Engineering also acted as a subcontractor on additional jobs financed or directed by these state and municipal agencies.
IDOT and the other entities used several billing procedures in its contracts for services during the period of the fraud scheme, beginning in 1997 through 2004. These billing procedures included "lump sum" and "variable sum" contracts as well as "cost plus" and "direct labor multiplier" contracted. Each involved a different way of calculating the relationship of costs for direct labor and overhead expense.
During court proceedings and in court documents, Manu Shah admitted overcharging IDOT and other entities when submitting contract invoices in several ways:
*Direct billing fraud in which Shah Engineering misrepresented the amount of work its employees performed on certain contracts, by both overstating the number of hours actually worked by individuals, and by 'shifting' hours worked by individuals from less profitable projects to more profitable contracts or to overhead categories;
* Overhead fraud in which Shah Engineering materially misrepresented its indirect expenses attributable to overhead, using false and fraudulent entries, invoices, calculations and documentation. These artificially inflated overhead expenses were filed with IDOT as "Statements of Experience and Financial Condition". The SEFC form was used to calculate the rate IDOT and other contractors paid Shah Engineering for overhead in "cost plus" and "direct labor multiplier" contracts and others. Using the inflated numbers, Shah Engineering was able to negotiate higher reimbursement rates than would have been paid otherwise;
* Overstatement of employees to misrepresent that certain part-time, contract or independent workers on certain projects were employees of Shah Engineering to fraudulently claim overhead expenses or enhance the billing with a "multiplier" that would be allowed only for legitimate full-time and full-benefit employees of the contractor.
Manu Shah also admitted to falsifying record for an audit conducted by IDOT in 2003 and 2004. Shah was asked to supply documentation for certain direct labor and overhead expenses claimed for IDOT and other contracts in prior years. Shah presented auditors with false and fraudulent documents including an invoice purportedly from "Associated Engineering and Technology," which had been altered to read "office rent" (an overhead expense) which was actually for the delivery of other services.
The Cook County board president was once again under fire for his latest hire.
Todd Stroger laid off dozens of janitors Friday in order to replace them with a janitorial firm that has made annual donations to his campaign.
Berwyn-based We Clean Maintenance & Supply won the $375,000 contract without bidding on the job. Stroger said he let go of the county-employed janitors due to budget cuts.
March 19, 2007
BY CHRIS FUSCO Staff Reporter Sun Times
A waste-hauling firm that's repeatedly been accused of having ties to the mob is still doing taxpayer-funded work and has surfaced on a government-produced list of environmentally friendly businesses.
In recent days, a dumpster from D&P Construction was on site at a Metra station construction project in Edison Park. D&P also saw a longtime snowplowing contract it has with the University of Illinois at Chicago renewed last year. Besides that, D&P and a sister company, JKS Ventures, are listed in a state government "Green Your Space Database," which helps people find "environmentally friendly building products you may use to improve your home or office."
Firm on 'Green Space' list D&P was widely publicized as having alleged mob links in 2001, when the Illinois Gaming Board took issue with it hauling trash from a casino site in Rosemont. "The owner of D&P, Josephine DiFronzo, is married to Peter DiFronzo and is the sister-in-law of John DiFronzo, individuals who have been identified as known members of organized crime," board officials wrote at the time. In November 2005, a Gaming Board hearing officer -- citing a memo from the FBI -- wrote D&P was "controlled" by the DiFronzo brothers. Josephine and Peter DiFronzo declined to return messages left at D&P's Northwest Side office. John DiFronzo's lawyer did not return a call. D&P's continued involvement in government work angers the president of the Chicago Crime Commission. "I can understand if it's a private company, but we're dealing here with taxpayer money," said Jim Wagner, who headed the Chicago FBI's organized-crime squad and was the Gaming Board's investigations chief before being hired by the crime-fighting group in 2005. "Is it in the best interest of the public to do business with people who have a history of intimidation as reported by law enforcement?" he said.
Rail agency to investigateMetra officials didn't know D&P had a Dumpster at the Edison Park station site until being contacted by the Chicago Sun-Times. Neither Metra nor its general contractor were aware of the firm's alleged mob links, spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said.
D&P was hired recently to haul bricks left by a subcontractor "and it doesn't sound like a lot of taxpayer dollars have gone toward them," Pardonnet said. The rail agency plans to investigate whether future dealings with D&P should be prohibited, she said.
UIC officials last year renewed D&P's longtime snowplowing contract because the firm was the low bidder and met all legal criteria, UIC spokesman Mark Rosati said. UIC paid D&P $55,169 under the deal last winter. The final tally for this winter is pending.
Susan Hofer, a state spokeswoman, said the Green Space Database makes clear that all firms named, including D&P, are not being endorsed by the state.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Woman who fronted company run by husband admits lying
March 16, 2007
BY STEVE WARMBIR Staff Reporter
A woman whose Hired Truck company took in millions of taxpayer dollars from the city's corruption-plagued program pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to federal investigators.
Nicola A. Cannatello, 59, admitted lying to the FBI in a March 10, 2004, interview when she told them that her husband, John Cannatello, was never involved in the business operations of their trucking company.
In reality, her husband hired, fired and dispatched truck drivers, marketed the company, bought, sold and fixed GNA trucks and negotiated leases. He was sentenced last year to 27 months in prison for his role in the scam.
Nicola Cannatello's lie about her husband not running the business was important because the city had certified that GNA was owned and run by women, allowing the company to get the leg up on certain city business deals.
Once denied clout The Chicago Sun-Times first wrote about the Cannatellos in 2004 as part of a series that uncovered the waste, fraud and corruption in the city's $40 million-a-year Hired Truck Program.
At the time, Nicola Cannatello denied having any clout to get in the program. John Cannatello has deep ties to the city's 11th Ward.
"I don't dig that kind of stuff," she said in an interview. "I'm just blessed they took my application."
March 16, 2007
BY FRAN SPIELMAN AND NATASHA KORECKI Staff Reporters
Three workers for the City of Chicago and two other men were charged this week as part of a growing probe of shakedowns in two departments that oversee building safety.
The federal charges are a result of an unprecedented joint investigation by the city inspector general's office, federal prosecutors and U.S. postal inspectors.
The five are accused of receiving or paying thousands of dollars in bribes to skirt permit and zoning approval. Failing to get such approval can bring fines of up to $1,000 a day, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro said Thursday.
'Allegations at this point'Kurt Berger, an $85,308-a-year project manager in the Department of Buildings, is accused of taking a $1,000 bribe for dismissing a code violation complaint. The bribe was passed from two contractors through a city worker cooperating with the feds. The worker, central in the broader probe, is expected to be charged later.
Electrical inspector Darryl Williams, 46, of Chicago is accused of looking the other way while a contractor added residential units to an extensive remodeling project without building permits. Williams got a pair of $8,000 cash payments stuffed into Wendy's bags, according to the charges. Williams makes $77,000 a year.
Miguel Diaz, a building inspector, allegedly took $1,000 to arrange for a phony letter of intent for a licensed plumbing contractor. Theletter is needed as part of the permit application process. Diaz, 40, of Chicago, makes $67,644 a year.
Sorin Adrian Oros, 32, a self-employed contractor in Glenview, was charged with paying a $12,000 bribe to a city inspector. Oros was trying to speed up zoning approval for a residential project, the feds said.
Steven Wallace, 28, a Chicago contractor, was charged with conspiracy for allegedly creating fake letters of intent to help projects in exchange for cash bribes.
Berger, Diaz and Oros appeared in court Thursday and were released. Williams appeared Tuesday, and Wallace has not yet been arrested.
"These are allegations at this point. Our concern is getting him back to his wife and three kids," Berger's lawyer, Keri Ambrosio, said. The other men or their lawyers would not comment.
On Tuesday, the inspector general and postal inspectors raided City Hall offices of the Department of Construction and Permits and left with computers and scores of documents.
Daley plays it down"The building safety rules in the city of Chicago must not be for sale," city Inspector General David Hoffman said.
The arrests mark the latest in a series of scandals for the two city departments charged with guaranteeing building safety in Chicago.
But Mayor Daley tried his best to play it down as a "minor thing." He said it wasn't as bad as Conrad Black, former CEO of the company that operates the Chicago Sun-Times on trial for allegedly stealing about $84 million from Hollinger International.
"These are ... people [who are accused of] misconduct, and you have Conrad Black," the mayor said. "This is a minor [thing]."
Shapiro had a different take: "We view these crimes as extremely serious."
Thursday, March 15, 2007
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
An $85,308-a-year project manager in the city of Chicago’s Department of Buildings was arrested Wednesday night and charged with bribery, in a growing investigation into shakedowns in the two city agencies that are supposed to make sure buildings are safe.
Kurt Berger’s arrest came one day after the city inspector general’s office and agents working for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service raided the City Hall offices of the Department of Construction and Permits and left with computers and scores of documents.
On the same day that Inspector General David Hoffman led that raid, an electrical inspector assigned to Construction and Permits was charged with accepting $16,000 in bribes. In exchange for a pair of $8,000 cash payments allegedly stuffed in Wendy’s bags, Daryl Williams is accused of looking the other way while a contractor added residential units to an extensive remodeling project without obtaining the required zoning change or building permits.
The investigation against Williams was reportedly aided by a building inspector who was similarly accused but won’t be prosecuted in exchange for his undercover cooperation.
Berger’s arrest marks the latest in a series of scandals for the two city departments charged with guaranteeing building safety in Chicago.
Two years ago, a residential permit was issued in a planned manufacturing district to a developer who took then-Building Commissioner Stan Kaderbek’s top deputy no a spring break trip to Brazil.
The department also was at the center of the city hiring scandal for its role in hiring the 19- and 23-year-old sons of Carpenters Union officials as building inspectors. And another building inspector was accused of falsifying a report on a building where a porch railing snapped, killing a 9-year-old girl.
The Buildings Department has been without a permanent commissioner since December, after the resignation of John Knight. City Hall sources called Knight a bad fit from Day One.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
By Gary Washburn Tribune staff reporter
Published March 12, 2007, 7:37 PM
The brother of a state senator has returned to duty in the city's Water Management Department amid an investigation into an on-the-job fight that left a co-worker bloodied, officials said Monday.Martin Munoz and John Orlando, both hoisting engineers, allegedly got into an argument that led to violence on March 1 inside the department's yard at 3901 S. Ashland Ave.
The police were called, both men underwent drug and alcohol testing and both were put on paid administrative leave as the Personnel Department's Violence in the Workplace office began an investigation, officials said. Both Orlando and Munoz, the brother of state Sen. Tony Munoz (D-Chicago), were allowed to return to work while the investigation continues.Patrick McDonough, a Water Management Department employee and sometime critic of the department's practices, said he was at the yard on the day of the alleged fight when Orlando walked into the superintendent's office."He had a bloody rag on his face and had a cut between the temple and the left eye," McDonough said of Orlando. McDonough questioned why Munoz had returned to work while the investigation was pending.Thomas LaPorte, spokesman for the Department of Water Management, denied that any special treatment was given. Sen. Munoz is a co-founder of the controversial Hispanic Democratic Organization and an ally of Mayor Richard Daley."The determination of when to call somebody back is made on a case-by-case basis," LaPorte said. "In this case, we didn't know how long the investigation would take, and we didn't want them sitting at home getting paid. We also understand they are not going to file criminal complaints against each other."Though officers were called to the scene after the fight, "we have no paperwork on it," said Police Department spokeswoman Monique Bond. "Apparently the individuals involved in the dispute decided to resolve it on the scene."Kimberly McMorris, a Human Resources Department spokeswoman, confirmed that an investigation is under way. Her department "will make a recommendation as to whether claims are sustained and recommend corrective action if needed," she said. Attempts to reach Munoz and Orlando were unsuccessful.
Former chairman of the Hollinger International Inc. newspaper empire, faces charges of racketeering, mail & tax fraud, and money laundering
Jury selection starts today in media baron's trial
March 14, 2007
BY MARY WISNIEWSKI Business Reporter Chicago Sun Times
No British lords will appear in the jury pool at the start of Conrad Black's criminal fraud trial today. So how will Black's defense team select a jury of his peers, sympathetic to his side?
The defense will look for jurors who are smart enough to understand a complex case, and who won't be shocked by the idea of someone making millions of dollars in fees, according to Chicago white collar crime attorneys.
Rich could be sympathetic
"The defense will be looking for wealthier people, who may not be stunned by some of the dollar amounts involved," said Thomas M. Durkin, of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, who has both prosecuted and defended white collar criminal cases. He said the defense needs a jury "who understands it's not a crime to make money."
Conrad Black, 62, former head of the company that owns the Chicago Sun-Times, goes on trial along with three others today on charges of stealing about $84 million from the company. The defendants all have pleaded innocent. Jury selection starts today, and opening statements begin Monday.
A key prosecution witness will be David Radler, Black's former business partner and publisher of the Sun-Times, who pleaded guilty to fraud charges.
The case includes allegations that Black misused company money for personal expenses, such as a trip to Bora Bora on a company jet. The defense will want business people on the jury who might be more sympathetic to those kinds of expenses, noted Leonard Cavise, a DePaul College of Law professor and a former criminal defense attorney.
May be easier for feds"The prosecution wants the ordinary person," Cavise said. "The prosecution will say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, when we go to Bora Bora, we have to pay for it.' They want people who think these big corporate CEOs are all crooks anyway."
Steve Miller, of Reed Smith Sachnoff & Weaver, said the defense will seek jurors skeptical of people in high places. Those would include such possible witnesses as former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson and conservative political adviser Richard Perle -- both former directors of Hollinger International, the former name of Sun-Times Media Group.
Much of the defense team's strategy during jury selection will depend on the lawyers' theories of the case, said Michael D. Sher, of Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg, who has done white collar defense.
"If the theory is 'Yes, something happened, but my client wasn't aware of it,' you may want someone who spent a lot of time in a big organization," Sher said. That juror would know that "the guy in the corner office may not be aware of what the guy two doors down is doing," Sher said.
Whatever the defense theory, the defense will have a harder time than the government finding sympathetic jurors.
"The government won't have much difficulty finding people who won't identify with the defendants, especially Mr. Black," Sher said.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Legal Affairs Reporter
Former Cook County Judge Oliver Spurlock was arrested Sunday after his former girlfriend accused him of shoving her as she tried to move her belongings out of his apartment, according to police and the Cook County state's attorney's Office.
Spurlock made headlines when he was thrown off the bench in 2001 for allegedly sexually harassing four female prosecutors in his court. He was never criminally charged with harassment and so keeps his $54,000-a-year pension. But the prosecutors' testimony before the Illinois Courts Commission convinced members that Spurlock was "an embarrassment to the robe."
Last year he was charged with punching an ex-girlfriend several times in the face. That charge was stricken when the ex-girlfriend did not appear in court.
Spurlock's attorney, Eugene Pincham, said Monday: "The girl is telling a lie. She has been stalking him, following him around. She said she was going to embarrass him." It was the same ex-girlfriend both times and neither charge is true, Pincham said.
Spurlock was released on $5,000 bond and is due back in court April 12. In addition to domestic abuse, he is charged with not having a firearms identification card because a weapon was found in his home.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Also, a Sun Times article on Sunday March 11, 2007 stated that LSC chairman Tom Ramos Jr. was a city worker, I did a little research and I am positive that this Tom Ramos Jr. is the same Thomas R. Ramos, Jr. who is a Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation laborer. Is he HDO? Is that why Daley is attempting to intervene? That's the next thing we'd like to know. If someone could find out.
A March 2, 2007 article in the Sun Times says:
There is a internal investigation of Tom Ramos, stemming from a bribery allegation reported to the inspector general by ousted principal Jones. Inspector General Jim Sullivan confirmed that he is investigating several allegations against Ramos on a tip from Jones, one including a charge that the LSC chairman "solicited a vendor for $400."
Posted by: JulieWoestehoff January 23, 2007 at 01:29 PM
I used to be on the council and I know that Tom Ramos Jr. is only there for personal gain. Mrs. Jones refused to allow him to take several members on a trip because it wasn't for student benefit. He wanted to spend money that was suppose to used by students. When he no longer had a child in school, he got guardianship of a relative so he could get Mrs. Jones out as principal. I wish the board of ed would get involved.
Posted by: former lsc member January 25, 2007 at 06:46 PM
I was at the last meeting 1-20-07 and it was completely disgusting! I am a student at Curie highschool and it scared me to see the people on the LSC who will ultimetly be deciding our fate. several of the LSC members didnt even speak english! my mom asked one of the members, in spanish, what she knew about curie and the woman didnt know anything; this was the same woman that looked over to Ramos when it came time to vote. She didnt have a clue what was going on! Also, Valle who was translating, wasnt translating everything. There were several instances where a young man from the audience stood up and patched up her translating job! she was only translating what she wanted. I was dissapointed with the whole situation there. I know thats how politics work but its not right and change will only happen if we stand up and are not intimidated!
Posted by: February 01, 2007 at 04:59 PM
I sure hope that if you are truly interested in what is going on at Curie you will take the time to read all of this. I will certainly not state any of my personal information here for fear of retribution. I also will not state any names since this is not the point here. The Edwards School LSC went through this same issue two years ago and at that time there was no blog to report on the things that were taking place. A current member of the Curie LSC was a member of the Edwards LSC two years ago and was the ringleader of the troubles started there. She was quite emboldened by PURE who took advantage of lack of interest in LSC elections to get a small renegade group the power to make very important decisions about the future of our communities. It is amazing that we give parents the power to make decisions in schools when those parents don't even have a grasp on their own children. I would think that it would be most important to first be sure that the parent representatives children are meeting the established benchmarks before allowing them to dedicate so much time to some other endeavor. It is also interesting to see unemployed individuals who have time and skills to dedicate to making these decisions but don't have the time or skills to get a job. My point here is simply what is happening at Curie is what happened at Edwards and many other schools in the system. We give the most precious of positions to the least qualified simply because many of the majority are too busy taking care of their own children and working to notice what is happening at a given school until the damage is done and it is too late. And PURE has learned to take advantage of this low voter turnout and participation. They completely orchestrated the election at Edwards simply by getting a small handful of people out to vote while noone else even knew what was going on. At Edwards, 30 votes out of 1,200 students will get you this power. This is a huge problem. PURE is making the selections of principals and not LSC's. I have nothing against language at all. What I do have a problem with is parents who have to look at someone in order to be told how to vote. And this happened at Edwards countless times. They are not looking at that someone because they don't understand the language, they are looking because they want to be sure that they are being directed properly by who put them in that position in the first place. Lastly, at Edwards there was a huge push to get a Hispanic in as principal. The LSC even nearly made the crucial mistake of advertising that the applicant must be Hispanic before PURE corrected them and informed them of the legal implications of doing that. But Edwards is a school of 90% Hispanic students. Curie is a high school of a much more diverse cultural body. Having a Hispanic at Curie as principal would not be nearly as necessary. Do we have any Asian candidates? That would throw everyone for a loop. This current LSC will not approve a renewal of Jones' contract, guaranteed. And then the real fun will start. Watch the parade of candidates come through and see what the real motivation is here. At Edwards, the final three candidates were all Hispanic. The outgoing principal was African American. I don't really think that anyone else was seriously considered. This is completely about getting a Hispanic in the position of control at Curie High School. Which would not be a bad thing by itself. But it is the motivation that is behind this that is wrong. No candidates will matter if they are not Hispanic which means you are throwing out a huge portion of the pool of candidates and limiting the possibilities for the students. I will predict now with 100% accuracy that by the end of this LSC's cycle the principal at Curie will be Hispanic. I just hope we are not overlooking the most talented and qualified person for the job because of other motives.