Michael Volpe writes on Hired Truck Scandal and my first night out in years

Michael Volpe got many of the facts correct on Hired Truck Scandal. I hope that he digs into this story deeper. If you want to learn more insider facts make sure you read this article. His blog is called Thee Provocateur. I met Michael last night, my first night out in years. ckick here: http://theeprovocateur.blogspot.com/2009/08/deconstructing-hired-truck-scandal.html On another note, was happy to see Mick Dumke fighting with Alderman Stone. Stone will need to start a fight with a new Inspector General. Last night, I also met Brad Flora of the The Windy Citizen, he is a nice person (a cool dude), go to his website here: http://www.windycitizen.com/ they took pictures of the night click here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ennuiislife/sets/72157622040935747/ I also met a editor of a great website, Anna Tarkov, go to Daily Daley, click here: http://www.windycitizen.com/blogs/dailydaley I want to do a TV show with Anna, she has great humor. More on this later. Patrick McDonough.

3 Replies to “Michael Volpe writes on Hired Truck Scandal and my first night out in years”

  1. The Provocateur
    The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’

    Friday, August 28, 2009
    Deconstructing the Hired Truck Scandal: An Introduction
    To understand the Hired Truck Scandal, I go back to something that Charles Krauthammer said about scandals in general. He said that the difference between a scandal that captures the public’s imagination and one that gets ignored is simplicity. Krauthammer was making the thesis in the context of the scandal surrounding the bribery of William Jefferson. By then, it had been reported that about $60000 in cash were found in Jefferson’s freezer. It didn’t take much imagination for the public to imagine how it got there. In contrast, Krauthammer used the example of the Whitewater scandal. At this center of this scandal was a very complicated real estate deal and from there it wasn’t clear who did what if anything. That didn’t capture the public’s imagination because instead it lead to nothing more than confusion.

    The Hired Truck Scandal involves elements of both. On the surface, this scandal had everything for a titillated public. There were bags of money, run down trucks, the mafia, and all sorts of corrupt politicians and power brokers. Beyond the surface however, there was a complicated web of corruption that, if totally unravelled, would also have unravelled most if not all of the structure of corruption in the city of Chicago. Yet, after several months of a breathless public and insatiable press the scandal wound down. It took down several very powerful and important people with it, but ultimately, what we know about this scandal only scratches the surface. Worse yet, those held accountable only scratch the surface of those involved.

    The Hired Truck Scandal grew out of the city’s use of Hired Trucks to do little or no work. The trucking companies often used former cons and others of dubious background. As such, their drivers could be paid significantly less than most truck drivers. The corrupt power structure in the city saw a boon for everyone. Because the truckers were paid dirt, $7 an hour or so, these trucks became cash cows. As such, power brokers began taking bribes in order to secure city jobs for these companies.

    The scandal grew and became even worse. Often, the city would secure a plethora of trucks for city jobs when their use was unnecessary. Trucks were used for menial tasks like picking up pencils and other simple supplies so that the trucks could be kept busy. In reality, often trucks were hired entirely so that city money could be dished out to the companies and then the principles would turn around give politicians their cuts. It was the classic shell game.

    The whole thing would have very possibly never been discovered without the courage of average citizens who just happened to work as plumbers and other laborers on these jobs. Several started to notice that the trucks were just sitting there doing nothing. They also noticed that the trucks were rundown. They complained to their superiors and even to their union representatives. Like most whistle blowers, for the most part, rather than superiors investigating the corruption, it was the whistle blowers that were retaliated against.

    Eventually, largely due to the reporting of Mark Brown of the Chicago Sun Times, the Hired Truck Scandal exploded in the Chicago media. It was so scintillating that it received all sorts of national media attention. It represented a sort of turning point in the way that many Chicagoans viewed its Mayor, Richard M. Daley. While the scandal never reached him directly, it was unmistakeable just how many top aides were implicated. The most notorious was likely Robert Sorich, who was Daley’s patronage chief. Another was Donald Tomczak, the city’s water chief, and very powerful political power broker. Tomczak admitted to taking $400,000 in bribes. Several other folks were implicated but the scandal never reached Daley directly. Though, later it was revealed that many of these trucking companies contributed to the campaigns of Daley and his allies.

    At some point though, the twists and turns of the scandal became to complicated and the public, and apparently prosecutors, lost interest. Taken together, this scandal, if unravelled entirely, would also unravel most if not all of Daley’s corrupt political machine. It’s a machine in which politically astute allies of Mayor Daley are rewarded with cushy city positions. Then, those positions are used to line their own pockets and the pockets of their friends and anyone else that can benefit the mayor and his friends. That’s why the Hired Truck Scandal happened. Daley rewarded folks like Tomczak with city jobs and then Tomczak used his position to line his pocket and as such steal millions from the tax payers.

    Because the scandal had its day and fizzled out, it only took down some but left the structure in place. For instance, Donald Tomczak was instrumental in electing the current White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel to his first elected position. This is common knowledge and political insiders and junkies point this out, but it clearly didn’t stop Emanuel from continuing his own rise in the world of politics.

    What’s much more troubling is how many folks with a lot to answer for continue in positions of power, and a good wage, within the city or surrounding government. For instance, there’s John D’Amico. He’s currently a State Senator in the Illinios Senate. He was also an assistant foreman on one of the jobs, the Jardine Plant, implicated in the Hired Truck Scandal. Then, there’s Michael Tierney, another foreman on one of the jobs implicated, who continues to be employed by the city in another capacity. Then, there’s Alderman Pat Levar, of the 45th ward. He was seen at the Sunnyside Plant, another one implicated in the corruption, while the scheme was unfolding. When news of the scandal broke, he stopped showing up. He continues his role as alderman today. The most troubling unanswered question is the corruption surrounding Angelo Torres. Torres was both a major player in the city government and in his free time a gang banger. It’s still unclear how a gang banger was able to accumulate so much power within the structure of the city of Chicag. Torres was eventually convicted of shakedowns in relation to the Hired Truck Scandal.

    I could go on and on, but that would require a book not a blog post. What is clear is that a scandal this large wasn’t just a few rogue politicians and power brokers but the result of an entire city structure. The sheer magnitude of the scandal is evidence enough. More evidence can be found in the way that whistle blowers like Pat McDonough, who was fired as the case exploded. In McDonough’s case against the city, he alleges systemic violations of Shakman decrees. Shakman was designed to make sure that city and county jobs did not go to folks based on political connections. Yet, according to the suit, McDonough alleges that the city systemically violates the decree and thus hiring and firing in the city winds up all too often being political. All of these issues remain unanswered today. Meanwhile, the Daley administration has been hit with several more scandals since the Hired Truck Scandal and of course, the city is on the verge of hosting the Olympics in 2016, which would give Daley access to far more power than he’s ever had before. The kind of clout, influence and corruption in Hired Truck would be exponentially expanded by the Olympics if Daley’s administration administers the Olympics the way they administered Hired Truck. So, I hope to use the next several months to unravel Hired Truck and unpeel as many of the layers of corruption as possible as it leads to the heart of the city’s corruption.
    Posted by mike volpe at 11:38 AM

  2. September 23, 2008


    The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen United States District Court

    Wayne R. Andersen District Judge


    This case is before the Court on the motion of Defendants City of Chicago, Richard Rice, Alexander Vroustouris, Brian Murphy, Thomas Talley, Maureen Egan and the Human Resources Board of the City of Chicago to vacate the 1983 Shakman Consent Decree pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(4) and 60(b)(5). For the reasons stated below, the motion to vacate is denied.


    In Count IV of his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Patrick McDonough alleges that Defendants have violated the Shakman Consent Decree. Specifically, McDonough alleges that Defendants have violated the Shakman Decree by discriminating against him in his employment with the City based on his political affiliation, activities and speech against politically-favored members of the Water Department. McDonough seeks the issuance of a rule to show cause why Defendants should not be held in contempt of court, an injunction and an order requiring McDonough to be reinstated to his former position.

    The Shakman litigation which challenges the City’s patronage practices in employment resulted in a 1972 Consent Decree and a 1983 Consent Decree. The 1972 Consent Decree applies to the City’s treatment of its current employees. It prohibits the City from “conditioning, basing or knowingly prejudicing or affecting any term or aspect of governmental employment, with respect to one who is at the time already a governmental employee, upon or because of any political reason or factor.” 1972 Consent Decree at ¶ E(1) (emphasis added). The 1983 Consent Decree pertains to the City’s practices with respect to new hires and prohibits the City from “conditioning, basing or knowingly prejudicing or affecting the hiring of any person as a Governmental Employee . . . upon or because of any political reason or factor.” 1983 Consent Decree at E(1) (emphasis added). The 1983 Consent Decree was also designed to carry out the 1972 Consent Judgment. Id. at ¶ 2.

    Defendants now move to vacate the 1983 Shakman Consent Decree. Defendants claim that Count IV of McDonough’s Amended Complaint alleges violations of both the 1972 Shakman Consent Decree, which covers existing employees, as well as the 1983 Consent Decree, which covers new hires. Defendants argue that the 1983 Consent Decree should be vacated because the original Shakman plaintiffs, who were candidates and registered voters, lacked standing to challenge the City’s hiring practices.


    Defendants bring their motion to vacate pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(4) and 60(b)(5). Under Rule 60(b)(4), the court may relieve a party from a final judgment if the judgment is void. A judgment is void if the court entering the order lacked jurisdiction, or if it had no authority to enter the order, or if it acted against due process of law. United States v. Indoor Cultivation Equip. From High Tech Indoor Garden Supply, 55 F.3d 1311, 1316 (7th Cir. 1995). Rule 60(b)(5) provides that the court may vacate a judgment if “a prior judgment upon which it is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated, or it is no longer equitable that the judgment should have prospective application.”

    In O’Sullivan v. City of Chicago, 396 F.3d 843 (7th Cir. 2005), the Seventh Circuit instructed that in deciding a Rule 60(b) motion seeking to vacate the 1983 Shakman Decree, the focus should be on two important factors. First, the court must take a flexible approach that specifically considers principles of federalism. Id. at 868. Second, the court must consider the current law on standing, particularly as it relates to voter standing to challenge municipal hiring practices. Id.

    We deny Defendants’ motion for two reasons. First, the present enforcement action is brought under the 1972 Consent Decree, not the 1983 Consent Decree and, therefore, we need not address Defendants’ motion to vacate the 1983 Consent Decree. Second, even if we were to address the validity of the 1983 Consent Decree, Defendants’ motion based on an alleged lack of standing ignores the recent addition of class plaintiffs, who as of January 11, 2006, include individual City employees and job applicants, and thus satisfies standing requirements.

    I. The 1983 Consent Decree Is Not the Subject of the Present Lawsuit

    The 1983 Consent Decree is not at issue in this case and, therefore, the present lawsuit is not the proper forum for the Defendants’ motion. The 1983 Decree covers applicants for employment with the City. See 1983 Decree, ¶ E(l) (prohibiting discrimination “in the hiring of any person”). The 1972 Decree covers current City employees. See 1972 Decree, ¶ E(1) (prohibiting discrimination against “one who is at the time already a governmental employee”). McDonough’s claims are not based on discrimination in connection with being hired by the City. His injuries allegedly were caused while he was already a governmental employee. As such, McDonough’s claims are governed by the 1972 Decree, not the 1983 Decree.

    The City brought a similar motion to vacate in another enforcement action brought by a current City employee in Tucker v. City of Chicago, Case No. 06-C-4786 (N.D. Ill.). In Tucker, the plaintiff, a City employee, alleged political discrimination. The City filed a motion to vacate the 1983 Decree. On February 9, 2007, Judge Guzman denied the City’s motion as moot, reasoning that because the plaintiff was a current City employee, she was in fact vindicating a right under the 1972 Decree, not the 1983 Decree. Judge Guzman held that:

    [E]ven if this Court were to vacate the 1983 judgment, the 1972 judgment–and plaintiff’s claim to hold defendants in contempt for violating it–would be unaffected. Because vacating the 1983 judgment will not resolve or impact any claim in this suit, the Court strikes the motion as moot.

    Tucker v. City of Chicago, Case No. 06-C-4786 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 9, 2007).

    We adopt the reasoning of Judge Guzman in Tucker. This is a case brought by a current City employee seeking redress under the 1972 Decree, not the 1983 Decree. We decline to consider the City’s attempt to vacate the 1983 Decree in a case brought by a current City employee seeking redress under the 1972 Decree, not the 1983 Decree. Vacating the 1983 Decree would have no impact on this lawsuit, because the 1972 Decree would remain in full force to protect McDonough’s rights as a City employee. Thus, because the 1983 Decree is not implicated in this case, the Defendants’ motion is denied.

    II. The Motion Also Fails on the Merits

    Even if we were to reach the merits of Defendants’ motion to vacate, the motion would be denied. In Shakman v. City, 426 F.3d 925 (7th Cir. 2005) (Shakman III) and O’Sullivan, 396 F.3d 843 (7th Cir. 2005), the Seventh Circuit laid out the factors this Court should consider in applying the equitable standards embodied in Rule 60(b)(5). The Court has considerable discretion in deciding whether to vacate the 1983 Consent Decree. Shakman III, 426 F.3d at 932. Moreover, the Court should be guided by the public interest and concerns of federalism a well as the current law of standing. Id. However, “the focus of the district court shall be not on the law of standing as a jurisdictional concept but on the equitable standards embodied in Rule 60(b)(5).” Id. at 931 (quoting O’Sullivan, 396 F.3d at 868).

    A. Changes in Facts Since the City’s Appeal in Shakman III Support Denying the Defendants’ Motion to Vacate

    The factual record before the Court has changed significantly since April 29, 2004 when the City filed its appeal in the 69 C 2145 case that led to Shakman III. Among the most noteworthy are:

    * New plaintiff classes of applicants and employees were added to the case and certified by the Court.

    * The United States Attorney uncovered wide-spread violations of the Decrees.

    * High ranking City employees have been indicted, pled guilty and/or have been convicted in connection with rigged hiring and other violations of the Decrees.

    * The City has admitted that its hiring was “compromised.” See Aug. 2, 2005 Trans. at 11.

    * Based on the evidence presented in the criminal indictments and guilty pleas, as well as the City’s admission that hiring had been compromised, the Court appointed the Monitor to oversee the City’s employment practices.

    * The Monitor’s reports have found additional violations of the Decrees.

    * The Accord, negotiated and accepted by the City and approved by this Court provides for continued oversight of the City’s employment practices by the Court, the Monitor and the Plaintiff Classes.

    The present factual record demonstrates why the balance of equities favors enforcing the Court’s orders (the Consent Decrees) that were in effect at the time of the Defendants’ violations and compensating the victims. Enforcing the 1983 Decree will also send a strong message to City officials and employees, as well as applicants and the public, that the Accord will be enforced, future violators will be sanctioned, and victims will be compensated. Therefore, the change in the factual record since the Shakman III case was decided tips the equities considered by this Court in favor of denying the motion to vacate the 1983 Decree.

    B. The Plaintiff Classes Will Continue to Monitor and Enforce the Defendants’ Compliance with this Court’s Orders

    The Seventh Circuit directed this Court to “determine whether the class of voters has the necessary interest in this litigation to vigorously litigate and present the matter of [political patronage] to the court in the manner best suited for judicial resolution.” Shakman III, 426 F.3d at 936 (quotation omitted).

    On January 11, 2006, after O’Sullivan and Shakman III were decided, the Complaint in the underlying 69 C 4125 case was amended to add new class representatives on behalf of all past and present City employees and applicants for employment with the City. The Court certified these new classes as part of the Accord. Accord, ¶ 1. The Accord charged the classes of voters, candidates, job applicants, and City employees to continue to review the City’s compliance with the Accord and to present matters to the Court. Accord, § I.E(1). Therefore, the class of voters will continue to litigate and present matters to the Court along with the classes of candidates, employees and job applicants. Thus, McDonough, as a City employee, is well represented, and this class will “vigorously litigate and present the matter of [political patronage] to the court in the manner best suited for judicial resolution.” See Shakman III, 426 F.3d at 936.

    Based on the current state of the law of standing, the class plaintiffs, who as of January 11, 2006 include individual City employees and job applicants, clearly had standing to bring the underlying Shakman complaint in 1969 because they have alleged direct financial injury, competitive injury, and associational injury, and they continue to have standing today.

    Defendants’ motion based on a lack of standing ignores the presence of those additional Plaintiffs as well as the changes in the law of standing.

    For all of these reasons, Defendants’ motion to vacate the 1983 Shakman Consent Decree is denied.


    For the foregoing reasons, the Defendants’ Motion to Vacate the 1983 Shakman Consent Decree (# 105) is denied.

    It is so ordered.

  3. Pat, I’m glad you had a great time at the Saluki Thursday. With nearly 50 people making the trek out for beers, I’d call it a complete success. I know for certain several people were there to meet you, so I’m glad we could help make that happen. Cheers.

Comments are closed.