The Better Government Association (http://www.bettergov.org/), a beleaguered Chicago-based watchdog group that has its work cut out for it, recently released its “Hall of Shame” report that details the nearly 150 county officials that have gone to jail for corruption in Barack Obama’s home county of Cook. And that doesn’t even include the over 100 Chicago officials, a city also situated in Cook County, that has also gone to jail over the last few decades.
Because of the high amount of corruption and the large and ever growing roster of jailed county officials, in its press release, the BGA bitingly asks, “[I]s it any surprise this multi-billion dollar labyrinth of governmental entities is referred to disparagingly as ‘Crook County?’”
The scams took place over the past four decades in the courts; the offices of the Assessor, Sheriff and Treasurer; and the President’s Office of Employment and Training. They involve bribes, payoffs, rip-offs, padded contracts, ghost payrollers and the wholesale subversion of the judicial system. The perpetrators include elected officials at the highest and lowest levels of city, county and state government; judges, lawyers and lobbyists.
Sadly, the BGA finds that the corruption in Cook County government is widespread and “not confined to a single unit of government.” This corruption was found in such departments as the Cook County Board President’s office, the employment offices, the highway department, the sheriff’s offices, the assessor and the treasurer’s offices as well as the Clerk of the Circuit Court. In fact, the BGA found that corruption is endemic throughout the government and no one ever seems to be held accountable.
The report details Operation Greylord that was carried on between 1980 and 1992 that ended up convicting 15 judges, 47 lawyers and 24 police officers and court personnel before it was done.
Also discussed was the corruption plagued reign of Cook County Sheriff James O’Grady whose corruption was so wide-spread that the investigation reached from the Sheriff’s Dept. to the city and county clerk’s offices, the County Treasurer’s Office and the Board of Tax Appeals. During this investigation it came to light that county police officials were shielding a mob-run bookmaking operation, were as much as selling passing grades on the sheriff’s exam, and was rife with bribe-taking, theft and graft.
And as late as 2009 the BGA reveals the sordid tale of the looting of County funds from a program called POET, the Cook County Board President’s Office of Employment Training, where millions of taxpayer’s dollars went missing through embezzlement by County officials.
And this are just a small serving of the scandals, graft, theft and corruption that is contained in the BGA’s report. And remember, this report is only about the county government in which the City of Chicago sits. Obama’s hometown of Chicago has even more corruption and even more jailed officials to talk about. That tale, the BGA informs us, will be told later this year.
So, when someone wants to know from what sort of place that Barack Obama and most of his closest advisors come, you have but to offer them the “Hall of Shame” report from the Better Government Association of Chicago. That should answer all their questions.