Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Trial a glimpse into Chicago political patronage

Trial a glimpse into Chicago political patronage:

"CHICAGO (Reuters) - Four Chicago officials went on trial on Monday, accused of rigging the city's hiring process to reward loyalists of Mayor Richard Daley, in a case prosecutors said shows a ban on political patronage is being ignored.

City employees Robert Sorich, Timothy McCarthy, Patrick Slattery and John Sullivan have been charged with fraud. Sullivan was also charged with lying to the FBI. If convicted, they could each spend several years in prison.

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In opening statements in U.S. District Court, prosecutor Patrick Collins said only people who had served in Daley's political organization by ringing doorbells and handing out leaflets for certain political candidates had a chance to get well-paid positions like sewer and building inspectors or foremen on city construction projects.

Employing imagery associated with the selection of popes and kings, Collins described the proverbial 'puff of smoke' that accompanied a list of preferred candidates for jobs issued by City Hall, and the 'kneeling at the feet' required of job-seekers and their overseers.

Collins said Sorich and the other defendants coordinated who was hired by the city, falsified job evaluations and manipulated job interviews for the favored applicants.

Daley is the son of legendary Democratic Mayor Richard J. Daley, who was known for running a well-oiled Democratic machine based on patronage.

A 1983 court-ordered ban against patronage hiring, except for 1,000 top city positions, prompted the current mayor and his critics to agree machine-style politics was over. But Collins said the ban has been effectively ignored by the current administration."

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