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The [Wednesday] Papers

"The evidence that three companies gave more than $3,500 in gifts to a city worker included thank-you e-mails, expense reports and personal admissions of gift-giving, but the agency that enforces Chicago government ethics found too little proof to punish the firms in question," the Tribune reports.

"The case was part of the latest quarterly report issued Tuesday by City Hall's top internal watchdog.

"The former employee, who worked in the since-disbanded Office of Compliance, accepted sporting event tickets and meals from three companies whose contracts the employee managed, according to Inspector General Joseph Ferguson. 'Despite abundant evidence to the contrary,' the city Board of Ethics concluded there was insufficient evidence that the companies provided the gifts or the employee accepted them to impose fines, Ferguson wrote."

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Welcome to Chicago, where our ethics board is merely ironic.

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Sources say they drink PBR at their meetings and wear I ♥ NY t-shirts.

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Board members weren't available for for comment; they were too busy running from their own shadows.

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Our ethics leader.

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He makes $125,532 a year.

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UPDATE 11:17 P.M.: It occurs to me that Mr. Berlin may just administrate; here are the board members. Investigating further.

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From the inspector general's report:

An IGO investigation found that a former employee in the Office of Compliance, who had already been terminated for other reasons, accepted over $3,500 in gifts, including tickets to sporting events and meals from three City vendors over whom he/she had contract management authority, in violation of the City's Ethics Ordinance.

In the course of the investigation, one of the vendors provided false and misleading responses to an IGO subpoena.

The IGO recommended that the former employee be placed on the ineligible for rehire list.

The IGO also recommended that the three City vendors be placed on deferred debarment for a period of two years and assessed fines for violating the City Ethics Ordinance.

The IGO further recommended that four individual partners of the City vendors be permanently debarred from conducting future business with the City.

Lastly, the IGO recommended that the Board of Ethics impose fines on the former employee and the vendors for violations of the City's Ethics Ordinance.

The Office of Compliance agreed with the IGO's recommendation and the former employee was placed on the ineligible for rehire list.

DPS sent the four individuals Notices of Proposed Permanent Debarment and the three firms Notices of Proposed Deferred Debarment for a period of two years as a first step in the process to solicit a response from the contractors.

However, DPS ultimately settled with all parties short of debarment.

One firm, who had provided the least valuable of the gifts but who had initially provided false and misleading responses to the IGO, was ordered to undergo training from the Board of Ethics and to attend DPS workshops for certified firms.

The second firm, which provided the most valuable gifts, entered into a deferred debarment agreement and also agreed to permanently remove the subject partner from City of Chicago engagements.

The third firm also entered into a deferred debarment agreement and agreed that the subject partner will always be supervised on City engagements.

The Board of Ethics found the IGO's recommendations to be "insufficient to warrant a Board decision to assess fines . . . thus, it will not impose any sanctions in this matter."

Specifically, Ethics found that there was not an itemized list of specific incidents of improper gift giving, and as such, could not impose fines for gift-giving without "speculating as to which and how many offenses were actually committed, and, in effect, inferring its own conclusions from the factual record presented in the (IGO) Report."

Further, the Board found that, despite the IGO having secured (i) multiple e-mails between the vendors and the former employee repeatedly discussing the offer and receipt of gifts for specific events on specific dates, including thank-you notes and similar correspondence after the events, (ii) official expense reports reimbursement records and accounting records from the vendors showing the purchase of gifts for the former employee for specific events on specific dates at specific costs, (iii) vendors' admissions in IGO interviews of repeatedly giving specific gifts to the former employee, (iv) internal vendor e-mails that discuss providing the former employee with specific gifts on specific dates for a specific cost, and (v) the former employee admitting to IGO investigators that he/she had repeatedly received gifts from the vendors, the Board had no evidence of "either a vendor actually gave the item or service, or, that (the former employee) actually accepted it."

Except that a) everyone seems to have agreed it happened and b) as we learned in the Blagojevich trial, it only takes an offer to be illegal, not a consummated act. And thank-you notes seem to indicate a consummated act.

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This is small-time stuff, to be sure, but if the ethics board can't bring down the hammer on this, how can anyone expect it to be of any consequence on the big stuff - involving big people? If the office is just going to be feckless, window-dressing - as designed - then just get rid of it and save us some money.

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Final irony: The ($3.6 million) Office of Compliance was created by Richard M. Daley "to get around an inspector general who had embarrassed him."

Rahm disbanded the office, but this case was still working its way through Ferguson's system.

Rope-A-Mope
"A campaign treasurer for a former state senator, two Cook County corrections officers and four others were snared in an undercover FBI sting in which they paid kickbacks in the hope of securing thousands of dollars in federal grants, according to federal charges unsealed Tuesday," the Tribune reports.

The campaign treasurer is Dean Nichols; he worked for Rickey Hendon, who recounted slating him for a seat on the water reclamation board in his book Backstabbers.

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Mark Brown provides the context to what otherwise seems like another low-level deal:

"The flamboyant former state senator and alderman ­- who styled himself as one of the most accessible and quotable public officials in Chicago for more than two decades - has steadfastly maintained radio silence for nearly a year and a half now since his abrupt resignation.

"He doesn't call. He doesn't write. The cell phone number that many reporters kept on speed dial has been disconnected. And nobody can remember the last time they saw him at Wallace's Catfish Corner, one of his favorite West Side haunts.

"But Hendon's fingerprints turned up all over a federal criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, where seven people - most of them with some connection to his political organization - were charged with paying kickbacks to a make-believe federal official in exchange for $25,000 government grants.

"While Hendon is not named in the complaint, among the defendants are his former campaign treasurer, Dean Nichols, of Oak Park, and three others who had been paid for doing work for his campaign committee - Reggi Hopkins, Regina Hollie and Anthony Johnson, all of Chicago. Another defendant, Elliott Kozel, had been a small-time Hendon campaign contributor.

"The criminal complaint goes out of its way to mention that Nichols was the treasurer for a campaign committee for a former Illinois state senator, which is how the U.S. attorney's office blows a kiss to somebody like Hendon to make sure he knows they're still thinking about him.

"They also mention that the nephew of this former state senator has drawn their attention. The complaint says that the senator, clearly meaning Hendon, insisted that his nephew get cut in on two grants totaling $210,000 that he helped Hopkins obtain in 2007 and 2008."

Click through to read the rest, I've pinched more than enough.

Stars On Thin Ice
Patience has its limits. In Fantasy Fix.

Chicagoetry: Red Wing, Yellow Sin
Sargent Blackbird at Navy Pier.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Birds and words.



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Posted on July 18, 2012


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
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BOOKS - The Origins Of Environmental Bullshit.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Daisies.


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