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2015 A Banner Year In Illinois Corruption

The year 2015 was a banner year for public corruption in Illinois, according to a report published Thursday by political science researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Highlights of the report include:

  • the arrest and guilty plea by former Congressman Dennis Hastert;
  • the indictment and conviction of Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett;
  • the indictment of a Chicago policeman for the shooting murder of an unarmed teenager;
  • the federal probe of the hiring practices of Cook County Court Clerk Dorothy Brown.

"No matter how you slice it, 2015 was a bad year for public corruption in our state," said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at UIC and one of the authors of the report.

The other authors are Thomas J. Gradel, Leslie Price and Ion Nimerencu.

"We catalogued 27 convictions, 28 indictments, the launching of 11 corruption investigations, and the sentencing of 30 convicted elected officials, government employees, and private sector individuals who engaged in schemes that ripped off taxpayers' money," said Simpson, who is also a former Chicago alderman.

A large majority of the convictions and other legal actions documented in the report are the work of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, which includes Chicago and Cook County and the northern third of the state. A number of the convictions were handled by the U.S. attorneys from the Central and Southern Districts of Illinois. The researchers were also able to document six public corruption cases handled in 2015 by the Cook County State's Attorney.

In addition, the report contains a day-by-day almanac of reported corruption events in Illinois, beginning in early January with a fight involving Chicago police officers through the end of December when a Lynwood police officer was charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct for allegedly punching a handcuffed man in the face.

"In our previous anti-corruption reports, we established that Illinois has for several decades experienced the third largest number of public corruption convictions in the nation behind California and New York," Simpson said.

"This report, entitled 2015, a Banner Year for Corruption in Illinois, Anti-Corruption Report #9, is the first report we have done that focuses on only one year."

It is also a follow-up to Simpson and Gradel's book Corrupt Illinois, by Thomas J. Gradel and Dick Simpson.

Additional highlights of the report include:

  • The resignation of Congressman Aaron Schock, a Republican from Peoria after the publication of news stories about his alleged misuse of campaign funds and spending $40,000 of taxpayers' money to decorate his Washington office like a Downton Abbey set;
  • The release of former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., a Democrat, from federal prison for stealing $750,000 in campaign funds, and the entry into a federal prison camp of his wife, former Ald. Sandi Jackson, who was convicted in the same fraud scheme as her husband;
  • The sentencing of Ald. Howard Brookins' chief of staff to 15 months in prison for taking a $7,500 bribe to secure the Brookins' approval of a liquor license;
  • The conviction of Karen Finley, CEO of Redflex Traffic Systems, who pleaded guilty to funneling cash and other personal financial benefits to a Chicago official and his friend, knowing that the payments would help persuade the City of Chicago to award red-light camera contracts to Redflex. Earlier she pleaded guilty to a similar scheme in Ohio. The city official, John Bills, was found guilty in January, 2016. Last September, the City of Chicago sued Redflex in an attempt to recover $300 million from the firm;
  • The suicide of Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Gliniewicz, who killed himself while under investigation for stealing money from a youth program he ran. To hide his suicide, he staged the shooting to look like a murder by three suspects he was tracking. Investigators suggested it was an attempt to cover up his own crimes.

Also, the authors note that public opinion polls show that only 25% of the public in Illinois trust their state government. It's the lowest level of trust of any state. By comparison, 81% of the residents of North Dakota have confidence in their state and its leadership.

"This loss of faith in government," Simpson said, "is not only caused by the budget stalemate in Springfield and lowered bond ratings in Chicago, but also by the astounding level of corruption from City Hall to the statehouse to even doctor's offices."

Concludes Simpson: "The high level of corruption we have documented in 2015 suggests that additional reforms are still needed, such as: public funding of political campaigns; a fair remap of all legislative districts; increased citizen participation in elections and government; strengthening inspector generals and creating a suburban inspector general; fundamental changes in the Chicago Police Department; preventing public officials from representing private individuals and corporations for profit before other units of government, and making public information available in more usable forms on the Internet in a structured, open and searchable manner."


Previously by Dick Simpson:
* Judges For Sale.

* Rahm Emanuel: Bossier Than The Daleys

* Corrupt Illinois.

* Winning Elections In The 21st Century.


Comments welcome.


Posted on March 11, 2016

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