Dick Simpson, a former city of Chicago alderman and current head of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s political science department, cited more than 100 cases of convictions involving suburban officials over the past three decades. The study was also authored by David Sterrett, Melisa Mouritsen Zmuda, and Thomas J. Gradel.
The study outlines six categories of corruption-related convictions (130 since the 1970’s) in suburban Chicago:
1) Public officials with ties to organized crime
3) Police officers aiding or extorting criminals
4) Kickbacks and bribes to officials and administrators
6) Stealing of funds by leaders of school districts and special purpose districts
Bribery and kickbacks have been a source of corruption in suburbs in all directions, and cash payments for official action have affected both upper class and lower-income cities. Both long-time elected officials and professional bureaucrats have been convicted of using their positions to solicit bribes and kickbacks. Many suburban officials have used their power over city contracts and services to enrich themselves. Bribery and kickbacks raise the cost of services for taxpayers and corrupt the local decision-making process. And when under-the-table cash is not sufficient, there are till-skimming scams, which are just as detrimental.
Many of the examples are dated and almost forgotten, such as the case of Arlington Heights Treasurer Lee Poder, who was arrested for using $20 million in fire department pension funds to buy and sell securities, keeping profits for himself, but passing along the losses to the village.
However a recent corrupt development project example — Toyota Park — is fresh with a total debt of $230 million hammering Bridgeview, Illinois. Toyota Park, home of the Chicago Fire, was built with contracts with Mayor Stephen Landek’s friends and associates.
Contracts were awarded to the town’s financial advisor, Austin Meade; the mayor’s brother, owner of P.B. Food Products; and Mayor Stephen Landek’s former company, Eco-Chem after ownership was transferred to his girlfriend or his nephew while the stadium was being built. Also awarded a contract was CDK Accounting, which rents office space from a building the mayor owns. Since the project was proposed, Mayor Landek received $170,000 in political contributions from Toyota Park contractors and vendors. Bridgeview taxpayers are suffering with tax hikes.
The report recommends election of public officials dedicated to ethical behavior and governmental reform — specific to the suburbs. The state legislature or each county could create a Suburban Inspector General to oversee the suburbs of Chicago.
Access to information can help combat corruption in suburbs. Greater transparency can deter police misconduct and can discourage officials from only awarding contracts to the politically connected firms. The report recommended a hotline and Internet website where constituents can report suspected waste, corrupt acts by government officials, extortion by government officials or police shakedowns.
See the complete study [PDF] …
Green Grass and Graft: Corruption in the Suburbs — uic.edu/depts/pols/ChicagoPolitics/SuburbanCorruption.pdf
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