Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Feds probe city records on alderman's zoning changes
29TH WARD | FBI mole may have taped Carothers

February 19, 2008
Federal investigators have requested city records on four West Side zoning changes pushed by Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th), amid questions about Carothers' relationship with a Chicago developer who made secret recordings as an FBI mole.

Last year, Carothers' New 29th Ward Campaign Committee got $11,000 in contributions from Morgan Properties Inc., which lists FBI mole John Thomas as "manager."

The contributions came in payments of $9,000, $500 and $1,500, with the last one made on Feb. 23, 2007 -- four days before the aldermanic election, records show.

Last April 9, the committee returned all $11,000, offering no explanation in campaign records except "refund of excess contribution."

Carothers, the powerful chairman of the City Council's Police and Fire Committee, did not return calls seeking comment. He also declined to answer written questions.

Thomas is the Chicago developer-turned-FBI-mole who played a pivotal role in one of the two federal cases involving Tony Rezko, the indicted developer and political fund-raiser who is accused of business fraud and of seeking kickbacks and campaign contributions for Gov. Blagojevich from companies seeking state pension business.

The Sun-Times has reported that Thomas recorded hundreds of hours of conversations for federal investigators. Sources said the government had Thomas -- who is cooperating in hopes of getting probation for a felony fraud conviction in New York -- secretly record conversations with an unidentified Chicago alderman.

One of the 29th Ward zoning files that federal authorities requested from the city dates to May 2005, when Carothers introduced a zoning change for vacant land at Roosevelt and Central to be converted from manufacturing to heavy commercial.

The applicant for that zoning change was V-Land Chicago Roosevelt LLC. Jason Gigot, listed as a contact for the applicant, could not be reached. Nor could attorney John Pikarsky. Jay Javors, spokesman for listed property owner Roosevelt and Canal LLC, did not return calls.

Two of the three other zoning files pertain to the same property and were jointly introduced in August 2006 by Carothers and Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), his protege.

The applicant on those, Grand Central Center for Business LLC, was seeking to change zoning from manufacturing to mixed-use. The land, part of a so-called planned development, required -- and received -- a green light from the Planning and Development Department.

The fourth application was introduced by Carothers in 2007 on behalf of the Chicago Board of Education for Knute Rockne Stadium in Austin.

Three years ago, Carothers' name surfaced in the Hired Truck scandal. Carothers, a former Streets and Sanitation Department deputy, received $2,500 in contributions from Naperville businessman Martin McDonagh, who later pleaded guilty.

McDonagh allegedly made the contributions to Carothers at the request of John "Quarters" Boyle, who was sentenced to seven years for accepting $214,000 in cash, gifts and campaign contributions for steering Hired Truck business to favored companies.

At the time, Carothers said he knew Boyle from their days together on the city payroll. Carothers was not charged, said he did not ask Boyle to muscle truckers for gifts. And he returned the money.

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