Thursday, July 20, 2006

Who Will Wear The Jacket?

Libby’s post raises a question that Chicagoans have struggled with for a long while: How much corruption should we accept, in exchange for a well-run city?

In the case of the recent Sorich trial, it started like this: Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin broke the story of the hiring of building inspector John Ryan. Ryan is the son of a big shot in the Carpenters Union. Nothing new there. Ryan was also thoroughly unqualified to be a building inspector. In fact, Ryan was a 19-year-old kid. The resume he’d submitted to get the job was, well, fiction…and the hiring process was rigged.

This might be a funny story, if not for the fact that people had died in several incidents over the previous year that involved collapsing balconies and building code violations and so-forth. And Ryan was not the only thoroughly unqualified but politically connected building inspector on the city payroll.

When the story broke, it was clear that heads would have to roll. In the parlance of Chicago Machine Politics, someone would have to wear the jacket for this. Mayor Daley called a press conference, at which he nominated Buildings Commissioner Stan Kaderbek to wear the jacket. The jacket was a perfect fit, and Kaderbek took the fall and lost his job, even though he didn’t like it much.

And in the good old days, that would’ve been the end of it.

But not now. See, now we’ve got these pesky federal prosecutors that Libby was talking about. Guys like US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (yes, that Patrick Fitzgerald) and Assistant US Attorney Patrick Collins, who’ve decided to make a real effort to confront the Chicago Machine.

Their investigation yielded indictments – and eventually convictions – against Robert Sorich (Mayor Daley’s patronage chief), Tim McCarthy (Sorich’s assistant in the Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs – the department that doles out the plum jobs for City Hall), along with two guys from Streets & San – Patrick Slattery and John Sullivan. Two guys who, the jury agreed, had a hand in rigging the hiring process to screen candidates based on political connections, rather than professional qualifications.

So in the end, Sorich And The Three Bears ended up wearing the jacket. They allowed their lawyers to put up a defense, of sorts, but not to call any witnesses or advance any theories that would suggest they were taking orders from anyone higher on the Machine totem pole.

These guys dreamed up this scheme on their own. Yup. That’s a good one.

In her recent columns, Carol Marin has questioned the federal prosecutor’s aim, and his tactics. Prosecution witnesses were allowed to claim an unbelievable level of ignorance, rather than taking their share of blame. While distasteful, this sort of dealing is nothing new. And the feds didn’t aim high enough, Marin says. Which is true, if in fact, the feds are finished with this business.

But I suspect that we have not seen all of Fitzgerald’s cards. Not by a long shot.

Returning to the question – How much corruption should we accept, in exchange for a well-run city? – I guess it depends on your perspective. I agree with Libby – Chicago is prettier, safer and more accessible then it was during previous administrations. We’re all pleased with Chicago’s recent economic development. Then again, most of us aren’t related to someone who died when a balcony collapsed in a city that hires thoroughly unqualified but politically connected building inspectors.

Politically, Chicago is “The City That Works”…as long as you don’t look too closely at how it works. In this town, we’re not talking about “a little bit” of political corruption. Remember the Minority Hiring Scandal with its over $100-million price tag? Or how about the infamous Hired Trucks Program, which which has yielded federal charges against 44 people, and counting?

There are plenty more jackets available, and Fitzgerald is a tenacious prosecutor.

Stay tuned…

40 comments:

Libby Hellmann said...

Great post, Sean. Thanks for clarifying the story. Reading Carol Marin's take on the Feds tactics reinforces the fact that no one has clean hands in this situation. And maybe that's the real issue... and the one that keeps us both fascinated and repelled. Seems to me we're going to need a lot of jackets to cover our city of big shoulders.

Kevin Guilfoile said...

As you and Libby have pointed out, Sean, most Chicagoans are watching these trials with a certain amount of ambivalence. Certainly we don't openly approve of corruption, but most of us like Mayor Daley and despite the tragedies you allude to, the patronage system which we pretend we don't know about has served us pretty well, sadly. We fear whatever it is that might replace the machine might not be as, well, nice.

But the dilemma is our own doing. A system like this is able to thrive because voters don't hold politicians accountable. Incumbents hold a huge advantage of over challengers as it is, and if the incumbent can make most of his constituents comfortable, as this administration has, it is virtually unbeatable in an election, scandal or no.

Heck, just a few months ago John Stroger won re-election as President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners while in a coma. Over the past few months we have read statements reportedly from Stroger, but no one has actually seen or heard him, to my knowledge. It all feels so seventies Soviet retro. In fact, the coma might actually have helped Stroger in a tight race because suddenly a whole bunch of commissioners on the board realized that if Stroger won the election, they might become president by appointment (and in fact Bobbie Steele won that vote just the other day).

There are people who openly argue in favor of the patronage system and their argument goes something like this: Voters don't hold the government accountable. But in a patronage system, every civil servant is accountable to the person who got them their job. Loyalty replaces the vigilance of voters and that's how the system works. It's dirty, but we've learned to live comfortably in the squalor.

And the blame belongs first to us.

Postscript: The current mayor's mother (and the former mayor's wife) was named Eleanor Guilfoyle. A few years ago the Tribune printed a giant tree showing which members of the mayor's extended family were working in patronage jobs throughout the city. If I remember correctly, most of the Guilfoyles were in the parks department (or maybe sanitation). Before anyone points this out, I'm not related, as far as I know.

I've had to pay all my tickets, anyway.

John P said...

Interesting, Sean.
Not being from Chicago, and not normally hearing about the Windy City, while reading your blog comments, I had this strange sense of deja' vu, as if I was back in the 60s again. Maybe it was the constant use of the term "Mayor Daley". Or perhaps it was the tale of patronage and prosecution. I don't know, it was a just a weird feeling.

Blog looks cool. I've bookmarked it.

ab said...

Thanks, Libby, Sean and Kevin for this story. Very interesting. Sounds like a tribe or clan way of handling things.

D.A. Davenport said...

Hi Sean,
Great post. And the follow-ups from Libby and Kevin were very informative as well. One question that needs to be raised... are we talking flak-jackets or strait-jackets here?

Sean Chercover said...

d.a. - I think straight-jackets. Of course, I could be mistaken...

ab - That's a good point. I think Chicago politics has always been extrememely clannish. There have been reformers along the way, but they've always been shut down, shut out, or shut up by the Machine. Still, I think the call for reform is getting louder. The problem is, as Kevin and Libby have both mentioned, the folks now in charge are actually doing a pretty good job with economic development, school reform, housing reform, the "greening" of Chicago, etc. The old Machine politicians understood when they said (and I'm paraphrasing) "make sure the garbage gets collected on time and the potholes get filled quickly, and you can get away with murder."

John - Plus ca change...

Kevin - I agree with you. We, the voters, are the ones to blame for this mess. With the exception of stolen elections (of which there are more than we would like to think), we get the government we deserve. Your comment reminds me of the last chapter of PJ O'Rourke's excellent Parlaiment of Whores. But, hell, back in the day, I voted for Fast Eddie V. And you know why? 'Cause I thought it was funny.

I know that the old Machine guys still dole out the line about the patronage system actually being good for the citizens, (all evidence to the contrary) but I find it hard to believe that anyone still buys that crap. I mean, really. How naive are we, after all this time? Yeah, loyalty is what protected the public right into an unqualified 19-year-old building inspector.

And yes, the Stroger story is another good one to examine for the way things really work in this town.

Libby - It does keep us both fascinated and repelled. And it is part of what makes Chicago so perfect a setting for crime fiction. For all the corruption, it remains my favorite city, by far.

God, I love this town.

John P said...

>>Plus ca change

OK. What does that mean? I suspect "The more things change, the more things stay the same".

Which would be appropriate.
But you gotta speak English with me, Senor'

Sean Chercover said...

John, you caught me inadvertantly exposing my Canadian roots.

Mea culpa.

That means, my fault.

tombarca said...

Hi

I read this post 2 times. It is very useful.

Pls try to keep posting.

Let me show other source that may be good for community.

Source: Building inspector interview questions

Best regards
Jonathan.

Anonymous said...

Nice job. this is a great post will useful information. thanks for sharing.

hermes birkin said...

Good sharing. thanks.

Namaku Keren said...

Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus
Obat Kanker Usus

Namaku Keren said...

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Obat kanker serviks manjur said...

H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H

Obat kanker serviks manjur said...

H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H

teguh priyanto said...

H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H

teguh priyanto said...

H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H

teguh priyanto said...

T
B
B
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H

teguh priyanto said...

H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H

X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X

teguh priyanto said...

T
B
B
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H

teguh priyanto said...

H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H

X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X

teguh priyanto said...

T
B
B
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H

teguh priyanto said...

H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H

X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X

teguh priyanto said...

X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D

teguh priyanto said...

D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D

D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D

Namaku Keren said...

`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

Namaku Keren said...

`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

Namaku Keren said...

`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

Namaku Keren said...

`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

teguh priyanto said...

A
B
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C

C
C
C
C
C
C

teguh priyanto said...

C
C
C
C
C
C
C
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
BE
BE
BE
BE
BE
BE
BE
BE
BE
BE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE

Obat kanker serviks manjur said...

TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE

Obat kanker serviks manjur said...

TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE

Namaku Keren said...

`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

teguh priyanto said...

TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE

teguh priyanto said...

TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE

Obat kanker serviks manjur said...

TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE

Obat kanker serviks manjur said...

TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE

Obat kanker serviks manjur said...

TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE

Obat kanker serviks manjur said...

TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE
TE