Friday, May 5, 2006

Tip #1: What happened to Park Ridge probe?

Now that the City of Chicago has a new tipline and website to expose corruption, we'll be taking advantage of it. I will post a tip/question on the site and let you know if I hear back.

My question:

What happened to the investigation of Chicago Department of Transportation workers using a city truck and crew of workers passing out Rod Blagojevich literature during the middle of a work day in 2002?

A Park Ridge woman took a picture of the truck and the Jim Ryan campaign in 2002 highlighted her story at a press conference in the closing weeks of the campaign. The City said an investigation was underway. What happened to that investigation? If you need a refresher, here's a Nov. 1, 2002, Sun-Times story by Jim Ritter:

The City of Chicago on Thursday disciplined seven workers who allegedly used a Transportation Department truck to distribute Rod Blagojevich campaign literature in suburban Park Ridge.

Five seasonal workers were put on unpaid leave and two permanent workers were put on paid leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

Blagojevich is the Democratic candidate for governor, and Mayor Daley is his campaign chairman.

"One of the supreme ironies of this campaign is that Rod Blagojevich is using the corrupt Chicago Machine to try to get elected on a pledge to clean up corruption in Springfield," said Republican candidate Jim Ryan.

Blagojevich said the workers aren't connected to his campaign.

"I don't know who these people are," he said. "This is all new to me."

Transportation Department Commissioner Miguel d'Escoto called the allegations "serious," and added, "If it is determined there was any wrongdoing, we will pursue immediate discipline."

The incident occurred about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8. Beverly Stanis, a Republican election judge, said a Blagojevich campaign worker came to her door and asked her to support Blagojevich.

A few minutes later, she saw an orange Chicago Transportation Department truck parked nearby. Several people, including the worker who came to her door, picked up what appeared to be campaign literature from the truck.

"There was a beehive of activity," she said.

Stanis said that when she asked a friend to photograph the crew, several workers gave her a thumbs down, scowled and drove off.

"I think it's terrible for city workers to campaign on city time," she said.

The Park Ridge Journal reported the incident Oct. 23. Stanis, who has since moved from Park Ridge, appeared with Ryan at a news conference Thursday.

Stanis said she has "the greatest respect and admiration for Richard Daley. I know he would not tolerate this stuff."

The significance of this incident is highlighted in at least one plea agreement in the Hired Truck scandal where it is alleged that city workers were organized to work on behalf of the Democratic statewide ticket.

Yet I'm not aware of direct evidence of that work taking place -- except in Park Ridge.

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