Please watch out if you are a city of Chicago Department of Water Management employee crippled on the job. Careful, because the Inspector General is making video of you and Alderman Burke and Manica Somerville is going to stop your benefits. Pete O. is a Chicago Department of Water Management employee that had four back surgeries. The City of Chicago’s Alderman Burke forced Pete O. to attend Vocational Rehabilitation at Vocamotive. This is a waste of taxpayer money, because the guy can not even walk normal. This is a classic waste of money. At least Alderman Burke can shake down vendors for campaign loot.
Joe Ferguson, Chicago Inspector General first in line to steal credit. Ole Joe, tells everyone he separates the wheat from the chaff. When a Chicago City workers calls, or emails the O.I.G. you would expect an investigation. You would expect an interview to obtain a proper response to your concerns. I know for a fact when David Hoffman, the outstanding inspector general ran things, his staff was top notch and professional.
Not the case for phony Joe Ferguson, the psychic inspector general that know everything. Emails are not returned. Joe has not done a fucking thing about the corrupt promotion system still in place at the Department of Water Management. Joe covered up for Paul Hansen for over a decade.
But what we do know is the following, Joe Ferguson tips off the Sun-Times on a regular basis. Joe Ferguson tips off all departments when he faxes over inquires for information.
Joe Ferguson does not expose Chicago Commissioners that stall and refuse to discipline workers. When you ask for a FOIA from the Inspector General, they stall. Same treatment when you file complaints against corrupt FOIA officers covering up crime in Chicago. One thing we know for sure, Joe retaliated against whistleblowers and is a puppet of Rahm Emanuel. Most of the challenged I.G. complaints are dismissed in court as a farse. Most I.G. employees are part time pass through college grads waiting for a real job. But don’t worry, Joe will be the first in line to pose for pictures and take credit he does not deserve. P.S. Joe, remove that ugly mole from your nose.
Sun-Times Editorial Board
Just when you think Chicago municipal government is fully joining the modern world, somebody tugs open a closet door and out tumble the patronage hacks, the mopes who sleep on the job and the two-bit office bigots who really should shut up.
Feels like old times, you know?
That’s how we felt last week when we learned that goofs in the city’s Department of Water Management had been caught bouncing around emails that were racist, sexist and homophobic.
We can’t say we were surprised. The Department of Water Management has a long history of corruption and bigotry. But didn’t this stuff pretty much end when a federal court killed patronage politics? Once a judge handed down a series of rulings beginning in the late 1970s, known as the Shakman decrees, that banned hiring based on family or political loyalty, Uncle Al in Streets and San could no longer hire Cousin Bob or protect him when he screwed up.
Or so we thought.
We asked Don Rose, the veteran political consultant.
“Somehow, a few old-style patronage havens continue to exist,” he said with a shrug. “We’ll have these little sewers around for a few years.”
Elected officials, Rose said, are loath to give up “what few patronage privileges remain.”
In the meantime, all we can do is hold people to account when the sewage bubbles up.
On that score, Mayor Rahm Emanuel had no choice but to fire Barrett Murphy, the head of the Department of Water Management. Murphy may be more new school than old school, or so we’re told, but he was aware of the offensive emails and apparently did nothing about them.
The very way the emails were discovered by City Inspector General Joe Ferguson tells you something about the department’s continued hinky ways. Ferguson was investigating allegations that an employee was using his city email account to sell guns. Who uses the company email to sell guns?
And the employee in question was Paul Hansen, a son of former longtime Ald. Bernie Hansen.
Paul Hansen, as reporter Fran Spielman notes, has the kind of checkered past that once was common among a certain substrata of clout-protected city workers. Among the classic knocks against him — this really is old-school Chicago — is that he allegedly used political clout in 2010 to get his job back after a DUI conviction. Given that part of Hansen’s job was to drive around town to check on work sites, you might wonder about that.
But, then, this is the same Department of Water Management run 14 years ago by a deputy commissioner, Donald Tomczak, who went to prison for utterly ignoring all that Shakman stuff and doling out jobs, promotions and overtime to an army of political workers. It’s the same department at the center of the Sun-Times’ 2004 “Hired Trucks” investigation, in which we learned the city was hiring private truck companies with excellent political connections to do little or no work.
When Emanuel fired Barrett last week, he acknowledged that the Department of Water Management still has its issues. He said there should be a “reset button hit as it related to the culture.”
The good news is that the Department of Water Management, by anybody’s honest reckoning, is no longer the norm among city departments. It is more of a cultural zombie, popping back to life just when you thought it might be dead. Federal court orders, federal prosecutions and political evolutions, such as how local elections are funded and fought, have led to dramatic reforms.
Key to that progress has been the creation of an office of inspector general by many units of local governments, including Ferguson’s office for City Hall.
Even as the old ways die out, the best inspectors general remain on zombie patrol.
Emails about gun deals played a key role in a city inspector general’s investigation that led to last week’s shake-up at the Water Department, sources familiar with the probe said Monday.
One source with knowledge of the investigation said the City Hall watchdog initially began looking into emails regarding the gun deals and uncovered several that were sexist and racist, including messages about former President Barack Obama that dated back a year or two.
The disclosure that racist emails were sent about the nation’s first African-American president added another layer to the scandal, given that Obama called Chicago home and his first White House chief of staff was Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, who last week was appointed to a third term by Emanuel, is continuing his investigation of the Department of Water Management, City Hall sources said. One source said more agency employees were summoned for interviews and that workers were “lawyering up.”
The gun deal emails were found on the computer of Paul Hansen, a City Hall source said. Another source said the inspector general seized Hansen’s computer as part of the investigation, which began about eight months ago. Hansen, the son of former 44th Ward Ald. Bernard Hansen, resigned Thursday as a district superintendent of water distribution, officials said.
Barrett Murphy, who was water commissioner since April 2016, resigned Friday amid the probe at the agency he led. He’s a city government veteran married to Lynn Lockwood, who is the former chairman and treasurer of one of Emanuel’s political funds, as well as a friend of Chicago first lady Amy Rule.
In addition, officials confirmed Friday that a top deputy, William Bresnahan, also resigned.
The Water Department is an agency long rattled by negative headlines under Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration, which was rocked by the Hired Truck scandal and an illegal jobs scam operated under former top water official Donald Tomczak, who served time in prison.
Under Tomczak, jobs and promotions were handed out in exchange for political work that created an army of ground troops for multiple politicians, including Emanuel in his successful 2002 bid for Congress.
Now Emanuel faces his own crisis. On Monday, the City Council Black Caucus called for an audit of the department “to get to the root of the culture of racism” and requested “additional diversity in promotion.”
“While we are deeply disturbed by reports of blatant racist language and behavior by these high-level city employees, we only wish we could say we are surprised,” said 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer, the caucus chairman. “The pervasive culture of racism at the Water Department has been an open secret for years. We hope that this moment can serve as a wake-up call for all those in the department and in other departments where this behavior is still tolerated or even encouraged.”
At an unrelated event Monday, Emanuel said he was made aware by Ferguson’s office of a problem with “one particular employee” and “in that process, it exposed a culture in the Water Department workplace” that doesn’t represent city values.
Emanuel said Murphy, the water commissioner, agreed there should be a reset in the culture at the agency, which is now headed by Randy Conner, who moved over from the Chicago Department of Transportation.
Hansen could not be reached for comment Monday. In April 2010 he was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in northwest Illinois, according to public records from Jo Daviess County. He later pleaded guilty to reckless driving. City payroll records show that he was promoted to his most recent position in December 2010, which is after the court case was resolved.
We all know about Vocamotive Vocational Rehabilitation Training. The City of Chicago has hired them to provide ways to reduce the millions Chicago pays in Workers Compensation benefits. Alderman Burke has hired a bunch of political hacks to work on his Committee on Finance. Dog walkers, dog groomers, hair dressers. Alderman Burke even hired a male stripper. Many folks that work for Alderman Burke have no schooling in Insurance Claims, workers’ compensation, investigations.
When that happens, Chicago Taxpayers pay millions more to hire professionals and consulting companies to pick up the slack. Claims drag on, City of Chicago Lawyers handling claims quit, and claims get bogged down. This costs Chicago taxpayers millions more. In case you read Chicago Newspapers, you will find Chicago investigative journalism has completely gone down the toilet. Chicago Journalist only print what Rahm tells them to. How sad.
Last year Vocamotive provided support services to the City of Chicago Committee on Finance to the tune of $500,000.00 dollars. That would have provided many more patronage workers for Alderman Burke, but no political donations. Vocamotive provides legal assistance to the Committee on Finance because their legislative aides are incapable of doing the job. In fact, Monica Somerville and Luana Olivas-Montoya should be fired if they cannot train the staff to do a complete professional job for the broke taxpayers. I would not expect much from Monica Somerville, she was fired as a Law Department Attorney after suing her boss for sexual harassment. She skipped the “Do not hire List”. Alderman Burke likes what he sees in her.
Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Vocational Training people get paid about $15.50 per hour. Vocamotive charges an astounding $85.00 through $105.00 per hour. Vocamotive also charges Chicago taxpayers hundreds of dollars for loaning cheap computers, and hundreds more for basic Microsoft classes. Chicago pays massive rates for travel time, talk on phone time, and wait time. The billing is better than lawyer rates.
Please look at the attached rates. Click on READ MORE What a mark-up. And you wonder why Alderman Burke is a millionaire and Chicago is Bankrupt. Where is Rahm Emanuel? Where is Inspector General Joe Ferguson?
Paris Schutz | February 25, 2016 6:23 pm WTTW Chicago Tonight
Powerful Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward) is facing more heat in his role as chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, which operates Chicago’s $100 million city workers’ compensation program.
Whistle-blowers this week filed a complaint with the city’s inspector general alleging the program, which pays disability to injured city workers, is fraught with patronage and political hiring. But can Inspector General Joe Ferguson actually investigate it?
Ferguson had no comment on whether they’d have that authority. A recent ordinance gives him the authority, starting next month, to expand his reach to investigate possible misconduct by aldermen – but stops short of being able to investigate committees they control – like Burke’s Finance Committee.
Nonetheless, a complaint filed by former city workers, including one who is the son of the late, longtime Alderman Berny Stone, is asking the inspector general to look into the city’s $100 million workers’ compensation system run by Burke. It alleges that the whole system is fraught with political favoritism.
“It’s an opportunity for Ed Burke to collect political favors,” said Jay Stone. “There’ll be other aldermen, committeemen, state reps, etc. going to Ed Burke saying, ‘My precinct captain is on disability, please take care of him,’ so now he has a political favor.”
When asked if he had any evidence that that actually happened, Stone responded:
“My father was an alderman for 38 years. I know how the system works. That’s how it works.”
Burke is ultimately in charge: he makes the hires, he ultimately signs off on the claims. He’s been very close to the vest on the program; no aldermen we spoke with even know exactly how it’s run.
The director of the program is a legislative aide named Monica Somerville, but they’ve hired consulting companies like Coventry Health Care to administer a lot of the program – there are no records of contracts awarded to this company.
We spoke with one employee, a plumber in the city’s water department, who has been injured since 2013 but says the Finance Committee cut off his disability pay last month without any process for appeal.
He says he believes the system is built to benefit city workers who are politically connected, and leave others who are not out in the dark.
“The process is, as soon as you get injured, you have to go to a city emergency care center. If you have clout you get to go to a doctor of choice,” said Patrick McDonough, a former plumber in the city’s water department. “If you’re not clouted, you have to go to all the city doctors, all the city specialists, whatever it takes to get you back to work. If you’re not perfect by the time you’re done, the city does everything it can to get rid of you.”
McDonough was also the worker who blew the whistle years ago on the city’s hired truck scandal that sent numerous public officials to jail and stained the administration of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley. McDonough says he sustained his injury in a forklift accident and says he believes Chairman Burke personally wants him out of a job. He says he was offered a settlement of a year’s pay to leave.
We tried to contact Burke and various officials in the Finance Committee numerous times, to no avail.
Stone’s contention that the inspector general has the authority to investigate the workers’ compensation system is a long shot at best. He says the program violates the Shakman Decree which limits the amount of political hiring that can go on in the city. Attorney Michael Shakman himself told the Chicago Sun-Times that he believes workers’ comp employees should be non-political hires, and that he made a mistake in exempting them in a deal he negotiated with the city to get out from federal hiring oversight.
He, along with the complainants and some aldermen, believe the program should be taken out of Burke’s hands and the legislative branch altogether and be recast in a non-political role in the executive branch of government.
Ald. John Arena (45th Ward) filed an ordinance to have hearings to discuss such a move.
“If we have a closet that can’t be looked into, that’s a concern,” Arena said. “We need to have oversight of that. But the Finance Committee’s function is to manage the finance of the city, not to manage medical and workmans’ comp issues. It’s just not the place for that to happen.”
Arena and others note that Chicago is the only major city that runs the workers comp system like this – others run it out of their law departments or human resources departments.
Burke fought very hard behind the scenes to pass an ordinance that would prevent Inspector General Ferguson from having the ability to audit programs like this. We’re told by several aldermen there was horse trading offered until the last minute. He narrowly won by two votes.
Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz
Mayor Emanuel’s Workers’ Comp Unjustly Denying Disability Pay and Benefits
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “We are aggressively pursuing $15 million in savings from workers’ comp.” Emanuel added, “I know that it (workers’ compensation) needs reforms.” Emanuel did not tell the public how his administration is saving $15 million a year in workers’ compensation, nor has he provided details of his workers’ compensation reforms. Since Emanuel won’t tell you about his dirty secrets and dirty dealings, I will. Emanuel is saving tax dollars by taking money away from a significant number of city workers who are deserving of their disability pay and benefits. Emanuel’s saving plan is to deny as many city employees of their disability pay and benefits as possible, regardless of whether cutting off city employees’ disability pay and benefits is justified or not. Emanuel’s workers’ compensation department is now operating like greedy health insurance companies. The goal is to deny both legitimate and illegitimate claims for the sake of reducing expenses and increasing the bottom line.Rushing mending city workers into lower paying jobs is another way Emanuel’s administration is meeting its goal of saving $15 million a year. The city is involuntarily forcing injured or ill city workers into job retraining without giving city workers enough time to fully recuperate and return to their old jobs. The city doesn’t consult or inform employees of their vocational retraining; instead the city sends injured employees to a contractor who performs job retraining on behalf of the city. Job retraining for injured workers sounds great, but when the city does it without first consulting employees or providing them with informed consent, it smacks of manipulation and deceit.
The most damning evidence of Emanuel unjustly denying disability pay and benefits are his own words. Emanuel said, “We are aggressively pursuing $15 million in savings from workers’ comp.” Emanuel made a priori decision that his administration was going on the offensive to cut $15 million without first determining where or how he could save money. Once Emanuel made the decision to cut $15 million, his hatchet men and women started to deny some city employees’ of their legitimate disability claims.
Emanuel has a reputation for being an obnoxious and aggressive politician, but usually he doesn’t come out and directly say he is planning an attack like he did with city employees’ receiving workers’ compensation. Emanuel purposely prefaced his actions with the word “aggressively” in his statement, “We are aggressively pursuing $15 million in savings from workers’ comp.” The word aggressively means, “Likely to attack or confront. or pursuing one’s aim’s forcefully.” Emanuel used his authority as mayor to forcefully save $15 million from workers’ comp regardless if it was justified or legal.
The way Emanuel proposed and spent Chicago’s yearly budget also led to the unjust denial of workers’ comp claims. Emanuel creates his budget the year before the city actually spends the money. For example, Emanuel submitted his 2016 budget to the Chicago City Council in 2015. When Emanuel decided to cut $15 million from workers comp, Chicago’s Workers Compensation Division was then forced to deny $15 million in claims so as not to exceed its allotment of money in Emanuel’s budget. Legitimate workers’ comp claims were in jeopardy the moment Emanuel reduced the Workers’ Compensation Division’s budget.
Past and Present Workers’ Compensation Investigations
Federal agents have investigated Chicago workers’ compensation two times before. The last time a federal grand jury subpoenaed six years of workers’ compensation records was in 2012. The previous federal investigation occurred in 2006 when the feds were looking for a connection between the Chicago “clout list” and workers’ compensation claims. FBI agents originally discovered the clout list on the City Hall computer of Robert Sorich, who was an aide to Mayor Richard M. Daley. About 60 city employees either plead guilty or were convicted in Chicago’s hiring and job rigging scheme. Almost one in five names on the clout list received workers’ compensation benefits.
Emanuel himself was implicated in Chicago’s hiring and election rigging scheme at two federal court trials. Federal Court witness Donald Tomczak testified that his patronage army consisting of 225 city employees campaigned to elect Emanuel to the U.S. Congress. Another federal court witness said Emanuel went out for beers with the illicit patronage workers after they campaigned for him. Emanuel’s assertion that he wants to clean up workers’ compensation is ridiculous given his previous involvement in its corruption.
Alderman and City Council Finance Committee Chairman Ed Burke is the sole person in charge of processing and settling workers’ compensation claims. Burke is the man who greases and fuels the Chicago machine. At age 24 Burke took over as ward committeeman when his father died in 1968. The following year he became an alderman. Burke has held his two positions as committeeman and alderman for nearly 50 years. Burke has close to $15 million dollars in campaign funds for two jobs that pay a combined $110,000.00 a year. Many of Burke’s campaign contributions are from city contractors, city employees, lobbyists, or other people who have business with the city. Burke used his political connections and organization to get his brother Daniel elected and reelected as a state rep since 1991. Burke’s wife Anne went from law school to an Illinois Supreme Court Justice in 13 years on the strength of husband’s political muscle.
Having Alderman Burke in charge of workers’ compensation and guarding taxpayers money is like having the fox guard the hen house. In 2006 Mayor Richard M. Daley’s chief of staff blamed Burke for city patronage employees exploiting workers’ compensation. There is a major problem of having Mr. Chicago politics running workers’ compensation. Burke in a position to reward the machine’s precinct workers with workers’ compensation when necessary and punish those who dare to challenge the Chicago machine. If another alderman and Burke ally such as Alderman Patrick O’Conner goes to Burke and says keep my precinct caption on workers’ compensation, you can count on Burke keeping O’Conner’s precinct captain on workers’ compensation for as long as O’Conner wants. When it comes election time, O’Conner will return the favor by supplying campaign contributions and precinct workers to help Burke’s wife and brother get reelected to the Illinois Supreme Court and Illinois House of Representatives.
In 20012 Alderman Burke denied Chicago’s Inspector General Joe Ferguson access and oversight of workers’ compensation claims. The Inspector General’s authority to investigate workers’ compensation hovered over today’s city council meeting (Feb..10, 2016) like a plague. The city council voted 25 to 23 to reduce the power and scope of the inspector general. Burke and the rest of his old guard used their influence to protect themselves and workers’ compensation from the prying eyes of the IG. Burke is truly untouchable but for all the wrong reasons.
I have been a thorn in the machine’s side. My website is one example of how I stick it to the machine when I should. I’m also CAN cable TV show producer. I have hosted many cable shows which have exposed Chicago corruption. The machine is using my unfortunate injuries to get me fired from my city job as a plumber. Had I been one of the machine’s good fellas, my workers’ compensation would continue without question. I also have a wife and five children to support.
Help Yourself, Help Me
It’s virtually impossible for one of us to take on the machine’s corrupt policies and practices. If we join together and tell our stories, we may have a chance to right the wrongs that have been done to us. If you are a City of Chicago employee who has been unjustly denied workers’ compensation or benefits, please contact me at [email protected] . I will keep your information strictly confidential unless I have your permission to share your information with attorneys, investigators, or other recognized agencies or authorities.
Here we go again with Rahm Emanuel visiting Chicago Department of Water Management employees attempting to stay out of politics. It is hard to complete a day’s work for a day’s pay when Rahm Emanuel wants to again pretend he is the go to guy for City Workers. Just four years ago, Rahm used many City Workers and Union Goons to get him elected. Those guys quickly got promotions and City Jobs. Some also became foreman in record time. A lousy Inspector General in Chicago just walks away from these investigation so he could get another four years paycheck for himself. Most folks that follow politics, know Rahm was not seen with peon city workers for four years. His “lifetime” job allowed him to travel the world on taxpayer’s dime and go to fancy hotels living like a player. Rahm, this election, has fallen back in love with black folks now that his lifestyle is in jeopardy. At the debates, Rahm had some scary cold sores on his lips showing he is in a real panic. He had some goofy freak at his Election Day rally in the background that could not stop crying. I hope more people come out and vote. I also hope Chuy and Rahm debate this time. I am suggesting all City Workers take a massive pay cut to help the city out of debt. We also need to undo every promotion Rahm has made in the last four years. I suggest Rahm gives every city workers a 25% pay reduction until the books are balanced. Rahm also needs to stop using Chicago Police as his personal gestapo. I also hope Rahm and the Jeffrey Epstein mess does not take a toll on Rahm. More on this later.
Humboldt Park man dies in overnight house fire
BY ALLISON HORTON Staff Reporter October 27, 2012 9:40AM
An overnight fire in a Humboldt Park home killed a man and injured another.
Jaime Martinez, 43, was badly burned in the 1:30 a.m. Saturday fire in his home in the 1600 block of North Central Park Avenue, authorities said.
He suffered second and third degree burns and smoke inhalation.
He was pronounced dead at St. Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center at 2:05 a.m., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
A second man was also taken to St. Mary after suffering from smoke inhalation.
And now the rest of the story from Chicago Clout. Please see the picture of a CBS 2 NEWS cameraman taking video today of one of the fire hydrants that served the fire in this man’s death. After the fire, Chicago firefighters needed to call the Department of Water Management to shut down the water main. This fire was served by two (YES TWO) broken fire hydrants. The hydrants are still broken and out of service. Hydrant caps were installed to stop the hydrants from flooding the area until the Hydrant Truck can be dispatched, and that could be months. Note to Joe Ferguson: I did not call CBS2 NEWS JOEY, so do not subpoena my personal phone records. The Chicago Office of the Inspector General has known for years about the broken fire hydrants and is part of the cover-up so politician’s kids can continue to feed at the trough. We really need to stop whistleblower retaliation by the O.I.G., time to have the FEDS take over.