Lester: Who's paying private eye to dig dirt on Madigan opponent?
"I'm a private detective in Schaumburg and I have been developing information on Jason Gonzales over the last few months. I saw your article. Nice work. Can we talk?"
That note from a Bensenville police officer who doubles as a private eye popped up in my inbox after I reported on Gonzales' 2015 pardon on several theft and forgery convictions from the early 1990s. Gonzales, an Elgin native who went on to get master's degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, is running against powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in the March 15 Democratic primary in the predominantly Hispanic 22nd District.
David Ratkovich, president of ETS Intelligence, told me he was paid about $5,000 to compile a dossier on Gonzales by someone who wanted to vet the candidate before dropping big bucks into his campaign.
Who paid? Ratkovich won't tell -- other than to say it's not Madigan. A quick look at Gonzales' war chest shows roughly $48,000 in donations this year, on top of $48,840 collected in 2015. A number of those donations are from investors and venture capitalists who also support GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Because of Botterman
Spokeswoman Kitty Kurth said Gonzales' old conviction records were supposed to have been expunged. Kurth, who worked previously as a senior adviser in the Draft Biden movement, joined Gonzales' campaign just this week but has criticized Madigan for years.
"It's all about what Madigan did to Patrick Botterman," she says. Madigan put up a candidate against Botterman, of Arlington Heights, for committeeman after Botterman ran Democrat John Schmidt's primary election campaign against Illinois Attorney General (and Madigan daughter) Lisa Madigan in 2002.
Foster child pilot program in Aurora
Aurora will be one of the sites for a new pilot program designed to get more foster kids out of institutional care and into supportive family settings, Department of Children and Services Director George Sheldon told me this week. Beginning in the next few months, 10 foster families can apply to take part in what Sheldon describes as intensive support and therapy.
Intensive therapeutic sites will also be offered in Chicago and in Rockford, he says. Sheldon is the last in a long line of directors of the beleaguered department. But the former Florida resident and former Obama appointee in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services signaled he is planning on staying; he's talking about the need to buy warmer winter coats.
10 percent goal
Sheldon says his goal is to decrease the number of foster kids who are institutionalized by 10 percent by July 2017.
It's peak bald eagle watching season, with just a few weeks left before the birds head north to Alaska and Canada following a winter in Illinois. One place to watch, Elgin's Gail Borden Library, not only has binoculars on hand in the reading room overlooking the Fox River, it also uses social media to alert bird watchers when the eagles are spotted near the library. Public relations coordinator Liz Clemmons cites a number of instances when officials have posted an eagle sighting and groups of people have driven over with binoculars to catch a glimpse of the eagle across the river. The library's Twitter handle is @gailbrdnlibrary.
Former Blackhawks winger Eric Daze and his wife, Guylaine, have engaged in a house swap of sorts, buying a $2.35 million, 5,300-square-foot Hinsdale home from Christopher and Lauren Hill, who bought the Dazes' 3,200-square-foot home, also in Hinsdale, for $1.8 million. Both transactions closed Jan. 29, according to the Cook County recorder of deeds. The latest purchase is the Dazes' third house in Hinsdale.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has begun investigating complaints of racial discrimination against Waukegan Public School District 60 made by a local activist, I've learned from school officials. Chris "Brotha" Blanks, who founded Waukegan's Black Abolition Movement for the Mind, accused the school district in a federal complaint of disciplining black and Hispanic students "more frequently and for less serious offenses than white students." A separate complaint claims the district fails to "promptly and equitably respond to complaints, reports and/or incidents of sexual harassment, including sexual violence."
Suburban sweets at Oscars
Yum. For the sixth year in a row, Schaumburg-based Chocolatines by Sweet Endeavors will have its truffles featured in swag bags at Sunday's Academy Awards. This year, chocolatier Rieko Wada says, the candies will be Drunken Fig Cake Bites, a cabernet-infused baked chocolate layered with a cabernet chocolate glaze and embellished with cabernet-soaked fig slices.
Here's a Throwback Thursday photo of Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton, Roskam's oldest daughter, Gracey, and late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia during a dinner Roskam hosted. "It's a dinner conversation that I will remember for a long time," Roskam says. "His humor, wit and wisdom were an incredible combination." Roskam paid tribute to Scalia on the House floor Tuesday.