Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cops let Alderman Tom Tunney skip license hassle
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 Reporters/fspielman@suntimes.com, asweeney@suntimes.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

Fugitive in City Hall case not so defiant this time

'Who am I? I'm a little ant compared to these people.'

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

Hired Monday, gone Wednesday
Coveted county job given to girlfriend of commissioner -- but she only lasts 2 days

October 4, 2007
BY STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter/spatterson@suntimes.com

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

Is This a Gag?

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.
Watchdog must have done his job too well
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.
It's deja vu over deal for Daley's kin
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.


Public Building chief is in line for new job
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.
Worker took city to court, now faces battery charge
STREETS AND SAN | Is it harassment because of suit? October 3, 2007
BY ERIC HERMAN Criminal Courts Reporter eherman@suntimes.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

1,443 victims of rigged hiring?
'RAMPANT' PATRONAGE | Claims seek share of $12 million fund October 2, 2007
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter fspielman@suntimes.com
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.