Crooked Code just warming up! "Time to take a bath in a hour"?
City employee gets 15 years in prison for accepting bribes June 13, 2008 BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter A former Chicago Buildings Department supervisor who dismissed citations and lifted stop-work orders in exchange for bribes--then frisked and threatened an underling who wore a wire for the government--was sentenced Friday to 15 months in prison. Kurt Berger pleaded guilty to accepting a $1,000 bribe for lifting a stop-work order on a South Side building slapped with a series of code violations. But, his plea agreement acknowledged that Berger and former building inspector David Johnson lifted stop-work orders on troubled buildings three times before that, in exchange for $500 each. Berger took the most recent bribe, even after Johnson was arrested in connection with the case in December, 2006 and agreed to wear a wire. After the arrest, Berger called Johnson into Berger's City Hall office, frisked him, warned him to be more careful and threatened to "get" Johnson if the inspector ratted him out, according to the plea agreement. Johnson has pleaded guilty. Berger's attorney Jeffrey Steinback praised U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow for her "Solomon-like" decision to "split the difference" between the minimum and maximum in federal sentencing guidelines. But, Steinback insisted that public safety was never compromised by Berger's actions and that he never asked for the money. He simply accepted cash "thank you's" from contractors after the fact. "All they were doing is the finishing touches. There were no structural changes. No loose wires or any other violations. This was strictly a stop-work order because of an expired permit on a project that was already 90 percent complete. There were no compromises to anyone's safety," Steinback said. Inspector General David Hoffman countered that calling the bribe a "thank you after the fact minimizes the significance" of what Berger did. "Kurt Berger was the supervisor over the Troubled Buildings Section. When he dismissed citations by basically removing them from the computer system, he was completely undermining the work other building inspectors had done. That is very significant corrupt conduct," he said.