Study: Suburban corruption merits new post
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org June 25, 2012 11:50AM
Dick Simpson, a former Chicago alderman and head of UIC's Political Science Deptartment, presented the results of a report detailing corruption that has afflicted more than 60 suburbs in Cook and surrounding counties and has ensnared more than 100 public officials and police officers, including 17 mayors and village presidents. He is calling for a suburban inspector general to rein it in. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times
Local corruption cases
Here’s a roundup of some of the more well-known recent local public official corruption cases.
A former Dundee-Crown High School secretary pleads guilty to embezzling $75,000 in student activity funds from the school, 2010.
Veteran police department community service officer is charged with stealing $1,500 in bond money posted at the Elgin Police Department, 2010.
A 10-year veteran officer with the Elgin Police Department is charged with official misconduct after admitting to planting evidence at the scene of a robbery to better his career, 2011.
Jail guard pleads guilty to stealing money and jewelry from prisoners, 2006.
An 11-year Kane County Forest Preserve District employee is accused of using his home at the Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva as the base of his drug-dealing operation, 2009.
Kane County coroner is charged with criminal misconduct, accused of improperly allowing two members of his staff in 2007 to take a TV from the home of a dead Carpentersville man, 2010.
The former head of the Quadcom 911 dispatch center in northern Kane County pleads guilty to official misconduct, admitting he unlawfully used a criminal background search database, 2009.
A former Streamwood police officer is convicted of aggravated battery and official misconduct for pummeling an unarmed, unresisting motorist with a metal baton, 2010.
Updated: July 27, 2012 6:14AM
Saying that suburban municipalities are copying the corruption playbook of Chicago, a former Chicago alderman on Monday proposed creating suburban inspector generals offices to police local officials.
“Many contracts and businesses in the suburbs have bribery and corruption as part of (their) business expenses,” said Dick Simpson, the head of the political science department at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
At a news conference at the Cook County Building in Chicago, Simpson unveiled a report — “Green Grass and Graft: Corruption in the Suburbs” — that he co-authored documenting corruption cases that have ensnared more than 100 suburban public officials and police officers dating to 1974.
“Somebody has to do something,” Simpson said. “This is not a minor problem. This is a major problem.”
He suggested the state, the counties or the suburbs themselves could create the inspector generals offices. A local inspector general’s office could cost as much as $500,000 per year.
He said that would be a fraction of the cost of the problem, which he said was $500 million a year statewide and which he referred to as “the corruption tax.”
Simpson said that U.S. Attorneys are often tied up pursuing Chicago corruption cases and state’s attorneys are too politically compromised to fight crooked politicians.
“The truth is that most of the state’s attorneys have a political base and the political base doesn’t want to prosecute their own officials,” Simpson said.
Eric Weis, Kendall County state’s attorney, said he had not seen the report and could not specifically comment on it. He said he would have to see specific data that investigations or prosecutions were being missed to justify creating another inspector general.
“Before creating another level of government, I would have to make sure what we have isn’t working,” he said.
He said having another inspector general would be all right “if you want to punt the ball.”
But he pointed out that some investigations or prosecutions would be his office’s responsibility anyway — and Simpson even said some would be referred to state’s attorney’s offices.
Weis said there are other situations, where, depending on what governmental body is involved, the state’s attorney’s office would defer or recuse itself.
“I don’t deal with the inspector general as much as I do with the attorney general, or the U.S. Attorney’s office,” he said.
Simpson also said that the office of Attorney General Lisa Madigan “should be doing much more,” to fight suburban political corruption instead of acting as a consumer advocate.
Simpson estimated they could be established within a year with the right support. He said a “champion in government,” needs to helm the cause, and he claimed that he spoke to a staff member of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office about the plan.
David Hoffman, Chicago’s Inspector General from 2005 to 2009, also endorsed the idea, calling the creation of inspector general’s offices a “very efficient tool to maximize integrity and protect public interests.”
One local south suburban town has already tried hiring an inspector general. Country Club Hills tapped Ronald Evans, the husband of former police chief Regina Evans, to inspect any political wrongdoing in 2010. Ronald was laid off in August and Regina was fired in October.
Both were indicted this year after allegedly misappropriating more than $500,000 of a state grant to make mortgage payments on a theater they owned and give payments to their friends, family and associates between February 2009 and June 2010.
Staff writer Matt Hanely contributed to this story.
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