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Life In Chicago: Grant Fraud, Boot Bribery & Unnecessary OT

With an assist to the Beachwood Added Value Affairs Desk.

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General has released its fourth quarter report for 2017 to the City Council. The report summarizes the Office's activity from October 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017.

In his cover letter, Inspector General Joe Ferguson addresses the future of the Office of Inspector General, including the first-generation projects for the new Public Safety Section, a revitalized website that will include an interactive data portal, the establishment of a robust community engagement program; and continued use of technology to expand the reach of the OIG.

This quarter's report includes summaries of concluded OIG investigations, inquiries, and other activities, including:

* Restitution for the former 350Green LLC owner, Timothy Mason, in the amount of $473,395.12 to the City of Chicago for his role in fraudulently obtaining over $1.7 million in federal grants intended for the installation and maintenance of charging stations for electric vehicles. Last quarter we reported that he was sentenced to two years in prison and one year supervised release.

"A grand jury indicted Mason, 59, and [former co-CEO] Mariana Gerzanych, 38, in March 2015 for scamming local governments, including Chicago, out of $2.9 million," the Sun-Times noted in September.

The original 2011 announcement of the grants came with large fanfare, but the company never remotely delivered on what was promised," Green Car Reports reported in May.

The company also ran into trouble in Pennsylvania.

* 16 campaign finance violation matters that involved $66,400 in contributions.

* The sentencing of a Department of Finance booter Leon Brown to 18 months of probation for soliciting and obtaining a $100 bribe from a driver in exchange for not towing the driver's car.

From the OIG's full report: "Brown, who was previously fired by the City for his criminal conduct, was found guilty on two felony counts of bribery and four felony counts of official misconduct, following a one-day bench trial in September 2017.

"Testimony and evidence at trial established that on November 12, 2014, Brown, while on duty and operating a City booter van, told a vehicle driver that unless she gave him $100, he would have her car towed. Brown subsequently followed the driver into a grocery store, waited while she obtained $100 from an ATM, and accepted the cash from her."

* The sentencing of a Department of Streets and Sanitation tow truck driver Lennie Perry to nine years of imprisonment for a bribery scheme in which he relocated automobiles parked on City streets and solicited and received bribes in exchange for returning the relocated vehicles to the victims.

From the OIG's full report: "Testimony and evidence at trial established that on September 19, 2014, in the late hours of the evening, a vehicle owner parked at Columbus and Balboa returned from sightseeing to find her vehicle had been towed. She flagged down a City of Chicago tow truck sitting nearby to ask for assistance. She encountered Perry, who told her that if she paid him $150 in cash, the vehicle would be returned.

"When she told him that she did not have any money, he directed her to his wife, Arica Reed-Perry, who was parked in a vehicle across the street. Reed-Perry drove the victim to a nearby ATM and subsequently dropped her at her vehicle after receiving the requested $150. The victim immediately reported the crime to CPD.

"While the crime was being reported, Reed-Perry was observed driving by and was immediately apprehended by responding CPD officers. She admitted Perry instructed her to drive the victim to an ATM to get money before returning the victim to her car. The evidence at trial further established that Perry and Reed-Perry acted in concert on this, as well as on two other occasions revealed during a broader OIG investigation.

"On the two additional occasions, Perry was identified as having towed the cars of victims (who had also parked their cars in the downtown area while sightseeing) and then solicited payments of $100 and $150 respectively from each for the return of their vehicles.

"Perry's wife, Arica Reed-Perry, separately pleaded guilty to a single count of felony theft for the role she played in Perry's scheme. She was sentenced to 24 months of second-chance probation and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $150."

Beachwood comment: Nine years to Lennie Perry seems pretty frickin' stiff. This, from the Tribune in December, must explain the sentence, at least in part: "Police previously said Perry was hired as part of a second-chance program run by Streets and Sanitation. He pleaded guilty to felony theft charges in 2008 and was sentenced to two years of probation."

An investigation found Perry had pulled his scam three times. What's sad is the petty greed, because the Trib also reports that "At the time of Perry's arrest, the city of Chicago's employee database listed a Lennie Perry as a tow truck driver with a salary of $70,408 a year.

* An audit of the Chicago Police Department's controls related to regular-duty overtime found that CPD's operational controls do not adequately prevent unnecessary overtime, deter abuse of minimum time provisions, or ensure that overtime is paid in compliance with policies and procedures. The audit also found that CPD management controls do not prevent officer fatigue, control costs or deter or prevent fraud, waste and abuse.

* An investigation which established that a Policy Analyst for the Department of Buildings sexually harassed a 17-year old high school intern under their supervision. The employee made multiple unwanted verbal and physical sexual advances toward the intern while at work and on two unauthorized, extended breaks. DOB discharged the employee, following the OIG's recommendation, and placed the employee on the ineligible for rehire list.

From the OIG's full report: "While at work, the employee engaged in inappropriate verbal and sexual behavior by consistently commenting on the intern's appearance and staring at the intern's body, gripping the intern's hand tightly, and leaning closely over the intern.

"The employee's inappropriate behavior escalated over time. Under the guise of rewarding the intern's hard work, the employee took the intern on a two-hour-long, offsite lunch at the lakefront. While there, the employee:

  • Called the intern "babe" and "baby"
  • Held and kissed the intern's hand, touched the intern's face, and tried to kiss the intern's cheek
  • Invited the intern on a vacation to Miami, offered the intern money to buy a car, and
    offered to take care of the intern
  • Provided a personal cell phone number and e-mail address
  • Commented that the intern looked older than 17
  • Grabbed the intern's hand when the intern tried to walk away

"Eventually, the intern was able to convince the employee to drive them both back to DOB offices. That same day, the intern asked to be relocated to another internship location.

"Throughout the intern's time at DOB, both in the office and during lunch breaks, the intern used verbal and non-verbal cues to tell the employee that the advances were unwanted and unwelcome.

"OIG recommended that DOB discharge the employee and refer the employee for placement on the ineligible for rehire list maintained by the Department of Human Resources.

"In response, DOB discharged the employee and placed the employee on the ineligible for rehire list."

* An OIG investigation established that a Department of Water Management Motor Truck Driver who did not obtain departmental permission to perform outside employment as an Uber driver worked as an Uber driver while on duty disability from August 27, 2015, to October 21, 2016, and then subsequently lied to OIG investigators about the terms of employment with Uber.

* An OIG investigation established that a Department of Law Assistant Corporation Counsel Supervisor misused sick time to attend court dates in a criminal proceeding in which the employee's daughter was a defendant, submitted false sick time certifications, and filed an appearance as an attorney in that criminal proceeding. In so doing, the employee violated multiple City of Chicago Personnel Rules and DOL's policy prohibiting the outside practice of law.

OIG recommended that DOL impose discipline up to and including discharge, commensurate with the gravity of the employee's violations, past disciplinary record, and any other relevant considerations.

In response, DOL notified OIG that the employee had given notice of intent to resign, effective eight weeks later. The employee was not recorded as having resigned under inquiry.


Comments welcome.


Posted on January 18, 2018

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