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.

4 Replies to “Crooked Code just warming up! "Time to take a bath in a hour"?”

  1. Ex-Chicago Department of Buildings supervisor gets 15 months for taking bribes
    By Jeff Coen
    June 13, 2008

    A federal judge Friday sentenced a former Chicago Department of Buildings supervisor to 15 months in prison for taking bribes, saying she wanted to send a message to other employees that public corruption is not acceptable.

    U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow told Kurt Berger that his decision to take money to lift stop-work orders was extremely serious. Lefkow likened it to a judge who made a decision in a court case, “and then accepted a check for $1,000 from the winning side.”

    “You know that is not the way to carry out a public trust,” Lefkow said. “The people of this city relied on you that you would act with integrity.”

    Berger, 45, had pleaded guilty. He had been charged as part of Operation Crooked Code after he accepted a payment through an inspector who was cooperating with the city’s Office of the Inspector General and federal agents.

    Berger’s attorney, Jeffrey Steinback, told Lefkow his client had accepted responsibility for his actions. Public safety was not compromised, Steinback said. Berger viewed the situation as him lifting orders so fixes could be made, the lawyer said, and then taking “thank yous” from contractors.

    “It wasn’t with the sense that something structural was about to happen, or electrical wires were hanging out and the public was about to be exposed to them,” Steinback said.

    Assistant U.S. Atty. Juliet Sorensen disagreed with that view.

    “He was responsible for safeguarding the integrity of the building code,” Sorensen said. He was willing to ignore that for payments, she told Lefkow. “That was the bottom line.”

    When Berger addressed the court, he told the judge he had devastated his family through what he did. Counselors had become involved, and Berger said he knew his wife and three children would suffer when he went to prison.

    He had worked for the city for 10 years before the case and had lost his dream job, he said.

    “It was a selfish act I participated in without thinking about the consequences,” Berger said.

    Lefkow said she hoped the sentence she imposed would lead others to think about what it would mean for them if they followed in Berger’s footsteps.

    The judge agreed Berger had come from a good family, had supported his children, had been a good Catholic and had been entrusted with an important job by the City of Chicago.

    “To whom much is given, much is expected,” Lefkow told Berger, quoting from the Gospel of Luke.

  2. Chicago city official sentenced to 15 monthsSaturday, June 14, 2008 | 7:34 AM CHICAGO — A federal judge has sentenced a former Chicago Department of Buildings supervisor to 15 months in prison for taking bribes
    In passing sentence yesterday on Kurt Berger, U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lefkow said she wanted to send a message to other employees that public corruption is not acceptable.
    Lefkow told Berger that his decision to take money to lift stop-work orders was comparable to a judge making a decision in a court case and then accepting a check from the winning side.
    The 45-year-old Berger had pleaded guilty to the charges, which stemmed from an

  3. The states attorney’s office spends 6 years time and tons of our money going after R. Kelly when the states attorney’s office never ever goes after Daley and all this corruption that is destroyiing the simple man in this city. The hispanic woman that is the states attorney nominee should not be rewarded with that office. As loud mouthed and at times not very graceful, the man we need is the repubilcan nominee mr. Peraica is the man that we know will slam this corrupt Daley administration and indict big time. People have to start understanding that elections are not like rooting for the Cubs all your life, one cannot be a democrat only in this state and expect that things will magically change. Pat, even you, if you are a dyed in the wool democrat then I’m sorry to say but you are only part of the problem. Reguardless of what democrat gets in, they are all little puppets of Daley. I was a staunch republican 8 years ago who liked Daley. Now I am upset at what Bush did to this artificial boom economy and also his expensive mess in Iraq. And of course Daley needs to be prosecuted for the way he rips off the taxpayers and I hope it happens soon. So please understand how we should be voting and why before you go out to vote in this election. And if you die-hard democrats think Obama is the answer then you may as well give mayor Daley the keys to the White House safe that holds all of our money. Think!

  4. Anytime a tenant wins money from the building and landlord ordinance business practice violations then the city should have responded to each instance by having responded to each building. Yet city corruption lets violations continue and Fitzgerald’s office and the IG only seem to respond to minute portion of corruption. Did i not mention that every tenant case is a case of city ordinance violations being questioned. And no city reports contradicting or supporting the landlord and the tenant are provided yet a sneaky judge could tell tenant that their home inspection showcasing city approved building violations is inadmissiable because it is not a city building ispector report. I lived in a building taken to court by the city and despite no permits having been issued for repairs, tenants emailing the land use & litigation attorneys with complaints, the case was dismissed with a small fine. When a building is in circuit court for violations, the city 311 operators tell you that no inspections can be done when a case is active. Would not the 311 calls prove that the building still has problems? If the city has to bring buildings up to code then the city will have to answer for bad planning, zoning violations, and why the violations were not caught the city was contacted. And the city has tort ordinance protection and is not liable for city ordinance problems. How is this fair? Even with Obama’s office helping me with my apartment and the dept of buildings, the city is still in full throttle sabotage mode.

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