The [Friday] Papers
"The chairman of the Australian company behind Chicago's red-light program resigned this week and trading in the company's stock was suspended amid an intensifying investigation into allegations of corruption in its Chicago contract," the Tribune reports.
"Redflex Holdings Ltd. announced the extraordinary actions just days after board members were briefed by an outside legal team hired to examine ties between the company's U.S. subsidiary and the city official who oversaw its contract, a relationship first disclosed in October by the Tribune.
"In a brief statement Thursday to the newspaper, the company also revealed for the first time that it is sharing information with law enforcement authorities.
"The internal probe found that company executives systematically courted former city transportation official John Bills with thousands of dollars in free trips to the Super Bowl and other sporting events, sources familiar with the investigation told the Tribune. The company also hid the extent of the improper relationship from City Hall after the newspaper's reporting last year forced Redflex to partially reveal its ties to Bills, sources said.
"The internal probe and a parallel investigation by city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson are also raising more questions about the company's hiring of a longtime Bills friend who received more than $570,000 in company commissions as a customer service representative in Chicago, the sources said."
Wow, that's far worse than this story looked when it was first reported. Reminds me of words an old editor of mine in Florida thought every reporter should live by: It's always 10 times worse than you think it is.
"Bills did not return calls, but has adamantly denied any wrongdoing. 'I would never have intentionally accepted a dime from Redflex, I wouldn't do that,' he told the Tribune in October.
But if a dime unintentionally found its way into my pocket, well, what're ya' gonna do about it?
"The latest developments run counter to the company's previous contentions that a whistle-blower concocted widespread accusations of internal wrongdoing and that a single company executive had mistakenly violated procedures by paying a one-time hotel tab for Bills."
Another good guideline: Always be suspicious when blame is placed on a whistleblower.
"Redflex lawyers told the Tribune in October that a previous company-sponsored investigation by an outside law firm in 2010 found no wrongdoing but for a single hotel stay one top executive paid for Bills. Redflex Traffic Systems sent the executive vice president in question to 'anti-bribery' training and revamped its expense accounting system, according to General Counsel Andrejs Bunkse."
And beware the company-sponsored investigation, as well as the training remedy. It's like sending Ozzie Guillen to sensitivity classes.
"Bunkse also said that neither Bills nor his friend the customer service representative were interviewed as part of the company's 'exhaustive' three-week probe."
"But in the wake of the newspaper's disclosure, the company announced it would pay for another outside review, this time by David Hoffman, a former city inspector general and federal prosecutor who is now a partner at the Chicago-based law firm Sidley Austin LLP.
"Hoffman last week presented the audit committee of Redflex's board with a starkly different version of events, reporting that Bills received thousands of dollars in pricey hotel stays, including tickets to at least one Super Bowl and White Sox spring training trips over the course of many years, according to sources. Hoffman's report implicated company executives in the wrongdoing and recommended that some be fired, the sources said."
And here's the pièce de résistance: "Bills [is] a longtime precinct captain in the political organization of House Speaker Michael Madigan."
Stop And Frisk
Why not? Wouldn't that be transparency? Broadcast the negotiations on CAN TV. What's the big secret?
Seriously. Why do we simply accept that such negotiations must occur in private?
Sense Of Normalcy
Rahm's Shock Doctrine
"The type and size of the school and the skill level of incoming students are factors that drive the disparity. Bowen is a neighborhood high school with just 522 students, most of them with lower-level skills.
"The most drastic dissimilarities are between high schools in impoverished neighborhoods with dwindling populations and selective enrollment high schools in more middle-class communities.
"Payton, a selective enrollment school, has a 27-page, full-color catalog of course offerings. In it, students can read descriptions of courses ranging from 20th Century Global Conflicts to Advanced Jazz Band to a physics class focused on electricity and magnetism.
"Payton also offers an all-honors curriculum for freshmen and sophomores; in junior and senior year, students can move into Advanced Placement classes.
"'The complexity of the texts is pretty significant,' says Principal Ted Devine. 'They are college-level.'
"Meanwhile, at Bowen, the course offerings are summed up on one page. Other than the special Wednesday classes, the electives are sparse, mostly reserved for seniors and straightforward, like creative writing."
QT: Tender Moments
Hockey City Classic At Soldier Field
Chicago's Art Conservator Extraordinaire
The Totally Paltry Week In Chicago Rock
The Beachwood Tip Line: Double or nothing.
Posted on February 8, 2013
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