Former Chicago alderman says suburbs too corrupt

A former Chicago alderman is pushing for the creation of a suburban inspector general’s office to thwart corruption in the 1,200-plus government agencies spread throughout the suburban landscape.

In a report released Monday, Dick Simpson, a former alderman and current head of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s political science department, cited more than 100 cases over the past three decades involving suburban officials convicted of corruption.

The report was published by Simpson’s university department. He is listed as a co-author, along with David Sterrett, Melissa Mouritsen Zmuda and Thomas J. Gradel. The report concludes with a recommendation that a suburban inspector general’s office should be created to “deter public officials from taking corrupt actions” and “help publicize the problems of corruption.”

The report calls for either the state legislature to create the office or have local governments sign intergovernmental agreements and pay 0.1 percent of their total annual budgeted revenues to finance the office. The office would report its investigative findings either to the Illinois attorney general’s office or the U.S. attorney’s office.

“However, the suburban inspector general must have the power to self-initiate investigation and have the independence to investigate corruption aggressively,” the report reads.

The report also seeks ethics training for all suburban elected officials, similar to what is required of state employees.

The bulk of the report is a laundry list of questionable practices and political misdeeds cataloged by newspapers over the span of several decades. Among the list of wrongdoing are the convictions of Fox Lake Mayor Joseph Armondo in 1985 on tax evasion charges, Warrenville City Councilman Chris Halley in 2010 on theft charges and Main Street Batavia Director Ellen Shadwick for theft. The report focuses on six categories of corruption-related convictions in the suburbs throughout the years. Those categories are political officials with ties to organized crime, nepotism, police misconduct, bribery and theft from the government agencies.

The report was delivered to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle Monday, Simpson said.

Many suburban communities have enacted ethics policies that require training. Chicago has an inspector general, as does Cook County. The DuPage County Board is expected to appoint an inspector general at Tuesday’s meeting.

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said the report has merit, but the idea of an office to oversee such a large swath of government might be too tall of an order.

“I’m not sure forming a new government bureaucracy to take care of government corruption is the best deal,” he said. “You really have to have people on top of what’s happening locally, and an office for all the suburbs might be too big. I do like the idea of a greater effort to impose transparency.”

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