City inspector in hot water, on firing line
BUILDINGS DEPT. | Faces termination over home, which lacked water meter
September 15, 2009
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter [email protected]
The Daley administration moved Monday to fire a clout-heavy building inspector who built a new home with a hot tub more than five years ago without installing a water meter.
Richard Kus was belatedly slapped with a $7,640 overdue water bill — including interest and penalties — for the water and sewer fees he should have been paying all along for his home in the 5500 block of South Natoma.
» Click to enlarge image Chicago’s acting inspector general is recommending the firing of a clout-heavy building inspector who built a new home with a hot tub more than five years ago without installing a water meter.
Kus is the brother of Chicago’s former zoning administrator.
He had a water meter installed in January after the inspector general’s office requested inspection and billing records. Kus also was cited for installing an underground sprinkler system without a permit.
When the Chicago Sun-Times disclosed the embarrassing oversight, Kus was reassigned to clerical duty pending the outcome of the internal investigation.
Ten days ago, the inspector general’s office concluded its investigation — with a recommendation that Kus be fired from his $87,720-a-year job, City Hall sources said.
On Monday Buildings Commissioner Richard Monocchio concurred and place Kus on administrative leave pending termination proceedings.
Kus could not be reached for comment.
In recent months, Monocchio has taken a similarly hard line with other wayward employees to erase the stain of Operation Crooked Code — an undercover city-federal investigation that has netted nearly two dozen people, including 15 city employees, on charges that cash bribes and lucrative gifts were paid to ignore building code violations and speed up paperwork.
In July, the commissioner moved to fire a $91,008-a-year plumbing inspector caught doing a side job with no permit, no city license and without signing a secondary employment form.
Monocchio also terminated a $66,556-a-year project manager accused of accepting a fee to provide expert testimony as part of a lawsuit between two outside parties, in violation of the city’s ethics ordinance, which prohibits employees from soliciting and receiving money for their advice.
Acting Inspector General Mary Hodge could not be reached.
The Kus investigation prompted the Water Management Department to launch a 10-year audit to determine whether other individuals and businesses may have fallen through the cracks by failing to install a meter.
They found 81 accounts where there were records of taps into the water main but no bill ever being sent.
A permit was issued in 2003, and Water Management inspectors were on the scene when Kus’ plumbing contractor tapped into the water main. But the water meter was never picked up. And nobody followed up.
Daley willing to entertain ideas to solve pension problem
September 15, 2009
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
Mayor Daley today cracked the door open to raising the retirement age and implementing a two-tiered pension system for new and old city employees to solve a crisis that’s choking local taxpayers.
Responding to the Chicago Sun-Times’ “Pension Bonanza” series, Daley said he would entertain myriad solutions to get the pension monkey off taxpayers’ backs.
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“It’s a very serious problem. You have to have some form of pension reform that’s fair for everyone — both fair for the pensioneer and for the taxpayer,” he said.
“There has to be a whole review of these pensions because it’s gonna fall on the backs of another generation of young people, and that’s unfair.”
Raising the retirement age from the current minimum of 50 “could be one avenue” toward reform,” the mayor said.
“People are retiring at earlier ages and people are getting jobs all over in the private sector. You see people retiring earlier and earlier. That is a state problem,” he said.
Daley said he was also open to the controversial idea of shifting newly-hired employees to the 401(k) plans favored by private industry — instead of the “defined benefits” enjoyed by their older co-workers.
But, it’s easier said than done. Union leaders oppose the idea on grounds that it would create a caste system among rank-and-file members.
“That is something you’re trying to work out. But that requires unions to agree with it. You know that in your establishment as well at the Chicago Sun-Times,” the mayor said.
In January, 2008, Daley created a 32-member commission drawn from labor, business and banking to confront the problem of underfunded city pensions.
They were given an 18-month window to recommend potential solutions to the vexing problem that gobbles up the city’s annual property tax levy.
Three months past the deadline, the commission chaired by Daley’s former chief financial officer Dana Levenson has yet to issue a final report.
In the meantime, Stock Market losses and the housing crisis have compounded unfunded liabilities of the city’s four pension funds from the $10 billion debt to employees and retirees when the commission started its work.
If the pensions funds run out of money, Chicago taxpayers get stuck with the tab.
Today, Daley appeared to close the door to only one potential solution: ending “double-dipping.” That’s a practice that allows city employees to retire and collect a pension check from one city job, then land on the government payroll in another capacity.
“We have a number of people that we looked at — a very small percentage in regards to hiring [retired] people who are very well-qualified. I needed them in different positions,” the mayor said.
Building inspector convicted of taking bribes
September 15, 2009 8:19 PM | No Comments | UPDATED STORY
A supervising building inspector for the City of Chicago was found guilty today of accepting $10,000 in bribes to help developers circumvent city codes.
A federal jury deliberated only about an hour before convicting Michael Reese, making him the 12th defendant to be found guilty in the Operation Crooked Code investigation of bribery in the city’s Buildings and Zoning Departments. To date, 26 individuals, many of them city employees, have been charged as part of the probe.
Reese was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and two counts of making false statements to federal agents. He remains free on bail while awaiting sentencing, which is scheduled for Jan. 6, Assistant U.S. Atty. Juliet Sorensen said.
Reese’s attorney, Andrea Gambino, could not be reached for comment.
Catherine Romasanta, a former permit “expediter” who was snared in the probe, was one of three former insiders to testify against Reese during the six-day trial. She told jurors she often passed bribes from developers to city inspectors, including Reese, to grease the way for plans that wouldn’t normally be approved by the department or to have changes made to a computer that kept important building and zoning information.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Rachel Cannon said she emphasized to jurors that as part of Reese’s job responsibilities, he was supposed to enforce city codes.
“Instead, he used that code to line his own pockets and then lied to federal agents when they came calling to ask him about it,” Cannon said after the verdict.
The Buildings Department moved to fire Reese after he was charged in December, but the 15-year city veteran appealed, department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said. With the conviction, the department will once again seek his dismissal, McCaffrey said.
IN REGARDES TO CITY INSPECTORS,I DEAL WITH PLUMBING INSPECTORS WEEKLY. I FEEL THAT THE MEN THAT I HAVE DEALT WITH ARE VERY BRIGHT AND KNOW WHAT THEY ARE LOOKING AT. A FEW BAD APPLES DONT SPOIL THE HOLE TREE. I HAVE FAITH IN THE INSPECTORS. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK PLUMBING INSPECTORS.
boring wake me up when its over. what a waste of my time.
how long does it take to get approval (Response) It all depends…
for all the chicago clout fans. go to dorothy browns clerk office website. clerks office and click under full electronic docket search, then to domestic relations/child support, enter docket number 2009-d-000964. Youll will see your Alderman John Pope’s DIVORCE DECREE. And the file of mental abuse that was lashed out on the poor wife. Another one of Mr. Daileys good oL boys. Too bad the Mexicans in the ward cant read this.
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