Corruption Watch: April

Your top-30 stories of government corruption for the month of April – with the College of DuPage scandal coming under heavy fire – as provided by Illinois Policy.

30. April 16, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: PACE official took $280K in kickbacks, feds say

A PACE manager took more than $280,000 in kickbacks after using his position to land work for IT contractors at the suburban bus agency, federal authorities said Thursday.

Rajinder Sachdeva, 51, of Schaumburg, was arrested Wednesday in the northwest suburb where he lives. U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox set his bail at $150,000 during a hearing Thursday afternoon.

29. April 16, 2015

NBC Chicago: Reports reveal elaborate spending up until Schock’s resignation

Former Rep. Aaron Schock may be out of office, but he still has to explain himself to the Federal Election Commission. And the quarterly report filed for his election committee, shows that big money was flying in and out of the congressman’s account, to the very end.

An examination by NBC5 Investigates shows the former 18th District congressman spent more than $42,000 on travel expenses, most of it on airfare, with one notable $4,000 stay at the swank White Elephant Hotel in Nantucket. The congressman dropped another $3,407 for gift bowls at Tiffany’s, and more than $3,000 at Garrett’s Popcorn. The federal records indicate that his American Express bills topped more than $75,000.

28. April 16, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Editorial – Who was watching at CPS?

As the Tribune and other news outlets reported this week, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is under federal investigation in connection with a $20.5 million no-bid contract that CPS awarded to her former employer. Byrd-Bennett hasn’t been charged with anything. We don’t know yet if she did anything wrong.

In June 2013, one month after the Chicago Board of Education decided to close nearly 50 schools and cut programs, it voted to spend $20.5 million on principal training sessions. Though the board faced a $1 billion deficit, it awarded the contract to SUPES Academy without a bidding process to determine the best price for the training service. SUPES Academy certainly isn’t the only organization qualified to provide this training.

27. April 15, 2015

Daily Herald: Farnham’s state pension stripped after child porn conviction

Former state Rep. Keith Farnham was stripped of his state pension today because the child pornography he was convicted of having was found on his state computer.

Farnham was sentenced to eight years in federal prison last month, which triggered a suspension of his more than $1,200 monthly benefit.

26. April 15, 2015

Chicago Tribune: College of DuPage under federal investigation

In a sign of intensifying scrutiny of the College of DuPage, federal prosecutors have opened a wide-ranging criminal investigation at the embattled community college, issuing two subpoenas this week that seek documents tied to spending and other matters, according to records obtained late Wednesday.

The subpoenas, which were served to college administrators Monday, cover three main areas: administrator expenses, contracts with the college’s fundraising foundation and credits awarded to police recruits at a law enforcement academy on the Glen Ellyn campus.

25. April 15, 2015

Catalyst Chicago: Feds investigating $20 million SUPES contract, Byrd-Bennett ties

Federal authorities are investigating a “matter” at CPS that sources tell Catalyst Chicago involves CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the $20 million no-bid contract given to SUPES Academy.

The CPS inspector general has been investigating Byrd-Bennett and the controversial SUPES contract since 2013. Inspector General Nick Schuler declined to comment Wednesday on whether the investigation is ongoing or on the inquiries from the federal government.

24. April 15, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Aaron Schock donor sues ex-congressman, alleges fraud

A Chicago lawyer who in 2012 donated $500 to then-Congressman Aaron Schock filed a lawsuit Wednesday that accuses Schock of racketeering and fraud.

Howard Foster’s lawsuit against Schock, a Republican from Peoria who resigned his post March 31 and is under federal investigation, says Foster was misled in giving money to the onetime rising star.

23. April 14, 2015

Department of Justice: Former Moecherville Water District board president charged with allegedly stealing water district funds

A former Moecherville Water District (MWD) board president appeared in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois today on federal charges for allegedly stealing $33,597 in property mortgaged and pledged to the Secretary of Agriculture acting through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development (USDA-RD), over the course of three months.

22. April 14, 2015

Crain’s Chicago: Guardian sues for Homan Square ‘black site’ records

After agreeing to turn over to the Guardian a report related to interrogation practices at Homan Square, the Chicago Police Department has balked amid a review by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office, according to a complaint filed by the news outlet seeking records about the alleged unofficial detention center.

In a series of articles beginning on Election Day, Feb. 2, the New York-based online subsidiary of the London newspaper identified 11 people held outside of normal booking procedures at the Homan Square facility. Those people were shackled for long periods of time and questioned, and some were subjected to physical abuse, the Guardian says.

21. April 14, 2015

ABC I-Team: Screws turn on Aaron Schock as replacement election set

The surprise resignation of Congressman Aaron Schock now results in two election dates being set for the 18th district: a primary shortly after independence day on July 7 and then the general election between the Republican and Democratic candidates for Schock’s suddenly-vacant seat.

Tuesday night, a U.S. grand jury seated here at the federal courthouse in Springfield, has already begun examining evidence of possible financial misconduct by Schock with of his top aides being subpoenaed to testify. According to the house clerk today his Chief of Staff Mark Roman, along with the manager of his Peoria district office, district chief of staff and executive assistant all notified House officials of the federal subpoenas. That quartet of witnesses is in addition to a federal subpoena already delivered to former communications director Ben Cole.

20. April 14, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Ex-Chicago City Hall clerk pleads guilty to embezzling nearly $750,000

A former low-level City Hall clerk who embezzled nearly $750,000 in Chicago permit fees faces up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to theft and tax evasion charges.

Antionette Chenier, 51, deposited hundreds of checks, most of them payable to the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, into a personal account she had set up called “OEMC Chenier,” prosecutors have said.

19. April 14, 2015

CBS Chicago: Emanuel agrees to $5.5 million police torture reparations fund

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has thrown his support behind a proposal to provide $5.5 million in reparations to dozens of victims of police torture at the hands of former police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his detectives, in an effort to provide closure on a scandal that has plagued the city for decades.

The agreement on a reparations ordinance came as aldermen held the first public hearing on a proposed financial restitution fund for torture victims. A group of aldermen had been seeking a fund of $20 million in reparations for torture victims and their families.

18. April 13, 2015

NBC Chicago: City Council committee OKs settlement in Koschman death

The Chicago City Council’s Finance Committee on Monday signed off on a plan to pay $250,000 to settle a lawsuit accusing police and prosecutors of a cover-up in the death of a man after he got in a fight with a nephew of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Nanci Koschman filed the lawsuit in March of last year. It accuses police of concealing information and creating false evidence to protect Daley’s nephew, Richard Vanecko.

17. April 12, 2015

Daily Herald: Editorial – Rauner’s challenge to believe in an Illinois without corruption

We don’t quibble with his basic premise that while we have many government employees and elected officials who are good people, the structure of government in Illinois – responsive to insiders and special interests rather than the people – is fundamentally, pervasively and sadly corrupt.

But here’s something else to remember. The tightest hold corruption has over us is our sense that that’s the way it is, that there is nothing any of us can do about it.

16. April 11, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Crooked couple’s sweet UIC deal

A clout-heavy couple convicted of stealing more than $3 million in state grant money to support a lavish lifestyle of yacht-club memberships, luxury cars and vacation homes also had a sweetheart deal with the University of Illinois at Chicago that reaped them hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.

A business owned by Leon Dingle Jr. and his wife, Karin Dingle, leased out a portion of a small, one-story building they owned on the West Side to UIC for storage. They collected nearly $700,000 in rent over seven years from the state university — more than twice the $310,000 they paid for the entire building, university and property records show.

15. April 10, 2015

Pantagraph: Trial delayed for BPD officer accused of writing false tickets

The trial of a former Bloomington police officer accused of writing phony traffic tickets has been delayed at least a month while the state asks the Illinois Supreme Court to review a judge’s ruling.

Brent VanHoveln is charged with forgery and official misconduct after authorities said he wrote several false traffic citations to meet a requirement, or quota, for the department. The 19-year veteran was fired in May and criminal charges were filed in June.

14. April 9, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Longtime city worker accused of stealing $750,000

A low-level clerk in City Hall embezzled almost $750,000 in permit fees over five and a half years without raising any alarms by depositing hundreds of checks payable to the city in business and personal bank accounts she controlled, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Antionette Chenier, a city employee since 1990, was caught only after Charter One Bank officials noticed unusual activity in the business account in January and confronted her.

13. April 9, 2015

State Journal-Register: Marshall County sends Aaron Schock a bill for special election costs

The Marshall County Board wants former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock to pay the $76,000 in unbudgeted county costs for special elections to fill the 18th Congressional District seat he abandoned.

The board voted unanimously Thursday to send the Peoria Republican a letter requesting the reimbursement. Schock resigned last month following controversy over his use of taxpayer and campaign funds.

12. April 9, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Lawsuit demands information on use of covert cellphone trackers in Cook County criminal cases

Cook County prosecutors are being sued to provide records of criminal cases that have involved the use of covert cellphone tracking systems — devices that have drawn the scrutiny of the U.S. Senate and privacy activists.

Freddy Martinez, a Chicago-area resident in the software industry, brought the lawsuit Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court, saying the state’s attorney’s office didn’t respond to his efforts to obtain the information through the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

11. April 9, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Trial to begin Thursday for Chicago police detective in fatal shooting

With a national debate raging over police use of force, a rare event takes place Thursday at Cook County’s main criminal courthouse: the trial of a white Chicago police detective on charges he fatally shot an innocent black woman in an off-duty incident.

Prosecutors charged that Dante Servin acted recklessly in March 2012 by firing five shots over his left shoulder from inside his car into a West Side alley occupied by at least four people.

10. April 8, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Editorial – A clean slate for the College of DuPage

The Clean Slate — Deanne Mazzochi of Elmhurst, Frank Napolitano of Bloomingdale and Charles Bernstein of Wheaton — finished 1-2-3 out of 12 candidates on Tuesday’s ballot. Along with incumbent Kathy Hamilton of Hinsdale, who wasn’t up for re-election, they’ll form a new majority on the board.

They’ve pledged to support a state performance audit of college finances and to make sure the school cooperates fully in investigations by DuPage County prosecutors, an Illinois Senate subcommittee and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

9. April 8, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Editorial – Judge rules in favor of fair trials

Hidden police files and secret deals with witnesses have been a common thread in many of the wrongful convictions that have come to light in Illinois in recent years.

So it was encouraging to see U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly take a strong stand against both this week in the case of Nathson Fields, a former death row inmate who is suing the city because a Chicago cop withheld or fabricated evidence against him.

8. April 8, 2015

Daily Herald: Reformers’ election means new balance of power on COD board

Tuesday’s clean sweep of the College of DuPage board of trustees race by the three candidates supported by Trustee Kathy Hamilton has reversed the balance of power on the board that oversees the embattled schoool.

The election of “Clean Slate” running mates Deanne Mazzochi of Elmhurst, Frank Napolitano of Bloomingdale and Charles Bernstein of Wheaton means that Hamilton — a vocal critic of school President Robert Breuder — will no longer be the lone voice on many issues.

7. April 7, 2015

Daily Herald: Rauner – Illinois Supreme Court part of a ‘corrupt system’

Gov. Bruce Rauner said Tuesday the Illinois Supreme Court is a part of a “corrupt system” because justices can get campaign donations from attorneys who argue before the court.

Rauner told the Daily Herald editorial board he’s working toward a different pension plan that seeks to break what he calls a “corrupt bargain” between union leaders and politicians who can get campaign money from them.

6. April 7, 2015

State Journal-Register: Our opinion – Troubled justice system needs innocence watchdogs

The growing number of exonerations nationwide is evidence that organizations like the Illinois Innocence Project are, and will continue to be, a critical part of a justice system that clearly is fallible.

The efforts of the Illinois Innocence Project, a mostly volunteer operation that operates out of the University of Illinois Springfield, should be championed by everyone who believes in fairness and justice for all.

5. April 6, 2015

Peoria Journal Star: Ex-Rep. Aaron Schock aides face questions over mileage payments

Schock resigned March 31 after six weeks of questions about his spending habits, including payments for miles driven that appear to be far in excess of miles recorded on his personal vehicle. But campaign finance documents show a top campaign aide also received a mileage payment late last year worth far more than any of the other 11 reimbursements she received in the prior 14 months.

The political director of Schock for Congress, Karen McDonald Haney, received a payment of $4,755.40 on Dec. 20, 2014, labeled “mileage reimbursement” on campaign finance forms filed with the Federal Election Commission.

4. April 3, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Fixes to residential treatment on the way in Illinois, but budget woes loom

State officials and child advocates have begun the difficult, deliberate work of revamping Illinois’ child welfare system following reports late last year that young state wards were assaulted, raped and lured into prostitution at taxpayer-financed residential treatment facilities.

Illinois’ largest child welfare association on Thursday unveiled a package of proposals that included boosting pay and training for front-line facility workers. A court-sanctioned team of independent monitors this week inspected some of the centers and plans a half-dozen additional visits next week. And the state Department of Children and Family Services has identified nearly 140 youths who should be moved out of the facilities and into less restrictive settings.

3. April 2, 2015

Chicago Tribune: DCFS late in probing more than 300 child abuse, neglect claims: audit

A new report released Thursday detailed additional problems at the state’s troubled Department of Children and Family Services that could “result in further endangerment” of the children the agency is charged with protecting.

The report from Illinois Auditor General William Holland found that the agency failed to investigate in a timely manner more than 300 allegations of child abuse and neglect in fiscal years 2013 and 2014. While the number of reports represented less than 1 percent of total cases, the finding was compounded by the department’s untimely determinations of abuse and neglect in 6 percent of those cases.

2. April 1, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times: Clouted family ‘upset’ by teen’s paid internship in Rutherford’s office, lawsuit alleges

The allegation is part of the latest salvo from a former aide to Rutherford, Edmund Michalowski, who last year torpedoed Rutherford’s gubernatorial ambitions by filing a lawsuit that accused the former treasurer of sexual harassment.

Neither the boy nor the parent is identified in the lawsuit. But the Chicago Sun-Times reported in July 2014 that a 16-year-old member of the billionaire Pritzker family received an internship in the summer of 2011, a year after one of his direct relations donated $50,000 to Rutherford’s campaign fund.

1. April 1, 2015

Chicago Tribune: Editorial – It’s time to clean house at the College of DuPage

Months of Tribune headlines apparently caught the attention of law enforcement. The Tribune reported this week that the DuPage County state’s attorney’s office has opened an investigation. A grand jury has issued three subpoenas “seeking records related to President Robert Breuder’s contract, his expenses and no-bid jobs awarded to a school fundraiser …”

Voters have a chance Tuesday to oust two COD board members and send an explicit message to the rest. One of them, just one, Kathy Hamilton, tried to put a stop to this nonsense. The rest should go away.

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