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.