Czernek steps down as Bloomingdale Twp. roads chief after months of scandal
After 11 months in the shadow of an FBI corruption probe, Bloomingdale Township Highway Commissioner Robert Czernek has resigned, officials said Thursday.
Czernek's decision came Wednesday evening, Township Supervisor Michael D. Hovde Jr. said.
Federal prosecutors charged Czernek in August with fraud and receiving more than $280,000 in kickbacks related to phony invoices for dump and storm sewer projects. He has pleaded not guilty.
Czernek's departure comes after numerous calls from Hovde and other DuPage County leaders for him to step down.
Bloomingdale Township voters also chimed in, with 60% approving by referendum in the Nov. 3 election an effort spearheaded by Hovde and township trustees to abolish the road district and highway commissioner job. On May 17, 2021, the remaining road district employees and operations will be folded into the township government.
Hovde said in a statement he looks "forward to having board oversight over the road district as the township continues the process of assuming and absorbing the duties of the road district."
Road district contractor BullDog Earth Movers' owner Debra Fazio and employee Mario Giannini also were charged with fraud. Federal prosecutors said the company colluded with Czernek to concoct fake bills and documents. Fazio and Giannini have pleaded not guilty.
"In exchange for the secret kickbacks, Czernek used his official position to approve and cause the approval for payment of stone delivery, dump leveling, and storm sewer invoices," the indictment states.
The highway commissioner processed the bills "knowing that the work and services reflected on the invoices at times had not been performed by BEM," the indictment says.
Authorities said Czernek, serving his second term as roads chief, started the scheme in May 2012 and would leave notes with instructions in secret hiding places around the road district headquarters. Fazio devised false invoices and passed on the kickbacks, prosecutors said.
The highway district will be run by staff members until a replacement for Czernek is appointed in the next 60 days to serve the rest of his term. Invoices will be approved by the township board.