Monday, June 23, 2008

Rod Blagojevich:The Reasonable Suspicion of Ilinois' Ethically Challenged Governor,Chicago Mob Ties and Ghost Payrolling?

After the Tony Rezko conviction,the talk of impeaching Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is a subject of political conversation in Illinois.Mike Madigan,the Democratic Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, has distributed a memo on the subject of impeaching Rod Blagojevich.Illinois has never had a Governor impeached,so to some this is shocking.
Years ago,one of the Chicago media's top sources, Robert Cooley warned several top Chicago media people that Rod Blagojevich would go on to become one of the most corrupt Governor's in Illinois history.Why? because Cooley warned Blagojevich would be a "hands on" guy.Where some politicians have cut outs to handle their corrupt dealings,other politicians take a more activist role.

It's time to take look at some forgotten facts on Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.Some people in Illinois can't understand why Blagojevich works so few hours as Governor.Years ago,The Chicago Tribune ran an excellent story by Laurie Cohen and Mitchell Locin on page 1 on October 24,1996 on Rod Blagojevich titled A QUESTION OF IMAGE ROD BLAGOJEVICH(sorry no link):
Mell put Blagojevich on his City Council payroll, and in 1990, Rod and Patti married.

Blagojevich stayed on the city payroll, with a short break for campaigning, until joining the legislature in 1993. The stint paid him about $83,000.

The specifics of what Blagojevich did for that money are elusive, and public records provide little clarification.

The issue is highly charged because federal investigators have questioned a handful of Mell's office workers--all of whom have denied wrongdoing--as part of a sweeping probe into alleged City Council ghost payrolling, the time-worn practice of collecting a public paycheck but doing little or no work.

Blagojevich said he hasn't been questioned, but Mell still has collected affidavits attesting to Blagojevich's hard work.

What did Blagojevich do? It's hard to pin down because of the slippery but legal system of City Council employment that lets people be paid by one committee and work elsewhere.

City records show that Blagojevich was paid by four separate council committees within two months in 1989. Records show he worked for the legislative reference bureau for 1 1/2 years.

William Donaldson, head of the Mell-controlled legislative reference bureau, an arm of the City Council that helps draft ordinances, said Blagojevich "did very good work" and filled a full-time position on his staff.

But Blagojevich says he never worked there, not even for a day. Instead, he said he always worked as a part-time aide to Mell out of the ward office, organizing community events and giving free legal advice to constituents.

The Mell affidavits describe how Blagojevich helped people out of legal jams involving traffic tickets and irate city inspectors, among other problems. Some grateful recipients of this taxpayer-funded assistance have donated to Mell's ward fund and Blagojevich's campaign fund.

While on the city payroll, Blagojevich also continued to build his private law practice. But he apparently hit an ethical snag.

Chicago's ethics ordinance bars municipal employees from representing clients in legal cases against the city. Nevertheless, Blagojevich and his law firm took on the city in several personal-injury and worker's compensation cases at the same time he was taking home a city check.

Blagojevich said the ethics prohibition was aimed at aldermen, not rank-and-file city workers. According to the corporation counsel's office, however, all city employees are covered.

The issue would fall to the City Council's Rules Committee, chaired by Mell, to investigate any violations.

Many city workers have pitched in for Blagojevich's congressional campaign, among them Dominic Longo, a longtime Mell ally who was singled out for praise in Blagojevich's victory speech on the night of the March primary. Only the day before, Longo signed in for his job in the city's General Services Department, but did political work instead.

Longo has had an unusual career. After a federal conviction in 1984 for stuffing ballots in the 33rd Ward, he lost his job as a city truck driver. He stepped down last year as manager of vehicle operations at O'Hare amid allegations that he sold jobs and pressured drivers to buy tickets to political events. Longo has denied the charges, which are under investigation by the city's inspector general.
Quite interesting.Serious ghost payrolling allegations are right here.But,this isn't the only issue of Blagojevich's past.Blagojevich has a background with an important associate of organized crime.On April 25,2005 Robert Herguth and Steve Warmbir wrote an important article titled MOB ISSUES RAISED ABOUT GOV'S PAL in the Chicago Sun-Times(sorry no link):
A former union leader who was hired for a six-figure-salary state job by his boyhood friend, Gov. Blagojevich, has ties to reputed organized crime figures and once was a bookie, informants have told Teamsters Union anti-corruption investigators.

Daniel E. Stefanski ran Teamsters Local 726, representing hundreds of city truck drivers, from the mid-1990s until landing a top job with the Illinois Department of Transportation in April 2003, several months after Blagojevich took office.

A report authored by the anti-corruption unit last year -- and recently obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times -- contains allegations that Stefanski:

**Lunched a few times a year with mob bookie Nick "The Stick" LoCoco.

LoCoco was a onetime Local 726 member and city transportation foreman who was suspected of taking bribes from Teamsters wanting full-time city employment or plum assignments. LoCoco died late last year after falling from a horse.

**Worked in an illegal bookmaking operation in the late 1980s with Robert Abbinanti, described as a "close friend." Abbinanti, once active in Local 726, was identified by the Chicago Crime Commission as a reputed mobster.

The report hinges the bookmaking allegation on mob attorney- turned-government informant Robert Cooley. The report said former law enforcement officials corroborated that the men were friends.

**Met at least two or three times with former Laborers union boss Bruno Caruso after Caruso was ousted for alleged mob ties.

**While in a tavern, offered a $20,000 reward to anyone who could provide the address of a mob informant whom the Outfit reportedly wants dead.

**Maintained "close ties" to the Coalition for Better Government, a controversial political fund-raising group that once was run by ex- con John "Quarters" Boyle. Boyle is described in the Teamsters report as a mob "associate," a characterization his lawyer disputes.
Remember,Dan Stefanski is one of Rod Blagojevich's best friends.For a chart of how Bruno Caruso and Nick "the Stick" LoCoco are part of the Roti family tree.

In conclusion, impeachment hearings should look beyond what Rod Blagojevich did as Governor.Blagojevich's past is quite questionable.Even if Illinois voters wanted to elect someone like this,Illinois House members in the post Rezko conviction era have an obligation to look at all these allegations.These allegations are certainly impeachable offenses.