Michael Tierney Judgemaker? Plumber? of none of the above video

By Steve Mills, Chicago Tribune reporter
May 22, 2013

This story was reported in collaboration with Medill Watchdog, a project at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and WGN-TV, with producer Marsha Bartel and reporter Mark Suppelsa contributing. Medill Watchdog can be found at medillwatchdog.org.

Terrence Lavin seemed an ideal candidate when he ran last year for a seat on the Illinois Appellate Court.

The veteran trial lawyer had served as president of the Illinois State Bar Association and taught law school for a decade. Two years earlier he had been appointed to fill a vacancy on the appeals court, giving him a crucial edge in experience over his opponents.

Still, to leave nothing to chance, Lavin hired two campaign consultants with unlikely backgrounds: Michael Tierney, a former supervisor in Chicago’s Water Department during a scandal-ridden period in its history, and Wallace “Gator” Bradley, a colorful former high-ranking gang leader who now sells his talents as an “urban translator.”

“I approached it like I was going to try a big case. I wanted to be fully prepared for anything that might come up,” said Lavin, who won a 10-year term on the court in November. “… Once I had to deal with the electoral system, I felt I better understand it and get people who could help me understand it.”

With candidates already retaining consultants for next March’s primary election, the role these consultants play has raised increasing concern. Watchdogs who have long lamented the political nature of judicial elections fear that the growing influence of money will taint campaigns that under Illinois Supreme Court rules are supposed to focus on legal experience instead of partisan political issues.

“It’s a strange game we’re playing when we elect judges,” said Malcolm Rich, executive director of the Chicago Council of Lawyers and a longtime critic of judicial elections. “We pretend that judges are not politicians, but we make judges go through the (political) process.”

Critics are also troubled by another all-too-common reality for political candidates, judicial hopefuls included. Candidates must make hefty contributions to the Cook County Democratic Party — usually about $30,000 apiece — in exchange for being slated, an influential endorsement in a county so heavily Democratic and one that brings an army of campaigners.

Lavin gave $35,000 to the county Democratic Party — all but $5,000 of it after he won the coveted slating.

Rich called these kinds of contributions troubling because they foster “a system that allows money to dictate who becomes a judge.”

The party payments are described in disclosure forms as donations, campaign expenses or, in at least one instance, a slating fee.

In an interview with the Tribune, Tierney said the payments are a fact of political life in Cook County.

“Anybody who’s endorsed will have to donate,” he said. “Because if you’re endorsed, then the party’s going to get you the signatures” needed to get on the ballot.

The judge-maker

Judicial elections have turned into such hard-nosed contests in part because of low voter turnout and even lower familiarity with candidates among voters. With judicial candidates so often politically inexperienced, a cottage industry of consultants — sometimes unusual political operatives like Tierney and Bradley — has emerged in Cook County.

For a fee, the consultants bring political savvy, navigating the networks of committeemen and precinct captains who can help candidates win slating, building candidates’ name recognition and smoothing introductions to the racial, ethnic or neighborhood groups that candidates might not otherwise reach. In some races, consultants handle such political heavy work as trying to knock opponents off the ballot and basics such as schooling a candidate on how and when to approach commuters for support.

Tierney downplayed the importance of his role in who becomes a judge.

“I am not the judge-maker,” he said in reference to a nickname he has earned in some quarters. “I’ve just been involved a lot.”

A plumber by trade, he got his start in political work as a precinct captain some two decades ago and developed a reputation for helping candidates win elections — all while working at the city Water Department, where employees were rewarded with promotions, raises and overtime in return for their patronage work.

A decade ago, the Hired Truck bribery scandal grew out of the Water Department, a sign of how deeply embedded political activity was in its ranks. During the investigation, Tierney said he was questioned by federal authorities and by the city inspector general’s office. His computer was even seized by investigators.

Tierney denied any wrongdoing, and he was never charged.

Tierney started working as a paid political consultant in 2000 while still employed as a supervisor at the Water Department. Before his retirement from the city in 2006, Tierney said, he confined his consulting to after work hours and on weekends. And n said, he no longer consults on campaigns because he is busy with his new job as political director of the politically powerful Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union 130.

Aggressive tactics

Some judicial candidates criticize Tierney and other consultants for aggressive tactics once more common to other political contests — including bumping opponents off the ballot by challenging the signatures on their petitions. That was the fate that befell William O’Neal, a veteran Cook County judge who hoped to cap his long legal career on the appeals court.

O’Neal, who said he did not have money to hire a consultant, gathered most of his petition signatures after work and on weekends, sometimes with the help of friends but most often on his own. He had hoped his Irish-sounding name — though he is African-American — would help him against Lavin on Election Day. Many voters, ill-informed about the competing judicial candidates, are believed to often vote based on the perceived ethnicity of candidates’ names.

“They’re really trying to destroy you,” O’Neal, who retired from the Circuit Court last November, said of the campaign process for judges. “You have to hang in there and do the best you can.”

Tierney made no apology for his tactics, saying he would do whatever it takes to help clients win contested elections. And O’Neal’s petitions indeed contained signatures that were deemed invalid, knocking him off the ballot.

“I’ve seen too many people with great credentials lose to somebody with a great name,” Tierney said. “If someone’s got bad petitions, we’re going to get them off the ballot. That’s the rules. … It’s just trying to win the election. Should you not go all-out?”

The consultants insist they want a qualified judiciary and work only for candidates with good ratings from bar associations.

Tierney said he tells potential candidates, “If you’ve got bad bar ratings, I don’t want to be walking you around.

“You want somebody who’s a legitimate candidate,” he said.

But that wasn’t always the case. Tierney acted as a consultant and campaign manager for Chicago attorney David Adams in his 2012 bid to become a judge in the 9th Subcircuit, which runs from Chicago’s Far North Side into Evanston and Niles. Yet Adams was found not qualified or not recommended by a dozen local legal groups, including the Illinois State Bar Association, the Chicago Bar Association and the Chicago Council of Lawyers.

Tierney said he worked as Adams’ adviser as a favor to a former client.

Tierney’s clients are more than satisfied with his work. Adams, who lost his bid for judge, and Lavin both praised Tierney, saying he was indispensable to their campaigns.

Lavin paid Tierney $15,000 and Bradley $2,500 in consulting fees in 2012, according to election disclosure forms.

Key introductions

Adams said Tierney made key introductions for him to committeemen and other political players in the 49th Ward, helped organize campaign fundraisers and steered him to printing businesses for campaign brochures and ads. He also taught him fundamentals of campaigning — catching train riders, for instance, on their morning commute and not after work as they hurried home tired.

“I was completely blind when I walked into this thing and he was just so helpful,” Adams said.

Lavin also praised Bradley, the former Gangster Disciple, for opening doors for him in the African-American community, particularly at churches and block clubs. A former spokesman for gang leader Larry Hoover, Bradley was sentenced to four years in state prison for armed robbery and burglary years ago, but then-Gov. James Thompson pardoned him in 1990.

In an interview, Bradley said he took Lavin “from the suites to the streets.” He helps candidates tap into an African-American voting base that “everybody takes for granted” but can be a powerful force, particularly in races that require candidates to cover Cook County’s broad expanse, Bradley said.

Another consultant, Sam Morabito, a deputy engineer at the city’s Department of Aviation, focuses much of his work on the Northwest Side, where he lives, and often sticks to gathering signatures to qualify candidates a place on the ballot, according to past clients.

Morabito did not respond to requests for comment, but Diedre Baumann, an attorney who twice ran for judge, said Morabito helped her gather thousands of required petition signatures. She paid Morabito and his company, Campaign Advantage, nearly a combined $10,000 between 2009 and early 2012 for the two countywide elections, records show. She lost both races.

“Running for judge, you’re not a politician. I didn’t want to be a politician,” Baumann said. “So you have to rely on people who know better. It’s a very difficult job to try to do on your own. … Your family and your friends are the best people (to do this work). But you can only ask so much of those people.”

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Michael "Shipping Boy" Tierney looking for more at Local 130?

Michael Tierney 4.jpg Mike “Packing Boy” Tierney has made himself almost inseparable at the Plumber’s Union and is tagging along with Tim Coyne, a candidate for Business Manager. I was just told Mike Tierney was following along like a lost puppy, trying to be helpful to Coyne. I do not understand why, but let’s look at possible motivations. After a complete failure at the City of Chicago, Mike Tierney was last at the O’Hare Airport. One might ask, after one investigation after another, Mike would just skip town. Mike Tierney moved up the ladder thanks to lots of packing. He started as a ditchdigger and a mailroom boy, but became a ranking supervisor at the City. Somewhere along the line, Mike obtained a Plumber’s License. He never spent a day as an Apprentice. Mike Tierney said under sworn oath that Caulkers are better than Plumbers. Mike was a Caulker. Mike made it through many scams at the Water Department directly under his thumb. Bribes for overtime, a heroin ring, Hired truck scandal, and a notebook computer confiscated by the OIG. Mike was part of tens of thousands of dollars accepted by people wanting to become judges in Chicago. It is one hell of a racket. Mike is part of a developing scandal illegally issuing Plumbing Licenses to his 36th ward pals. It is truly amazing how many times Mike walks away from lawsuits and major scams right under his nose. It does pay to know judges. After a full City pension under his belt and an easy Airport job, Mike is packing away to get a do nothing Union job. Mike likes wearing Union garb like he knows plumbing. Tim Coyne should learn the old adage his pal, James Sullivan will soon learn, sleep with dogs and wake up with fleas. How many pensions does Mike need and why? Why is he putting on the old “I am really concerned eyes”? I hope he stops ratting out his employees to cover his own azz. I hope he quits his scams and leaves a job to real honest to goodness plumber that knows the trade; guys that can do the plumbing in their own house. Watch this story unfold folks, it will be a whopper.

Fran Spielman has a massive scoop on Chicago Department of Water Managemnt

Daley shakes up Transportation, Water Management departments
May 14, 2010
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
Mayor Daley on Friday once again shook up two city departments at the center of the Hired Truck and city hiring scandals.
When the music stopped in Daley's version of musical chairs, Acting Transportation Commissioner Tom Powers was the new commissioner of Water Management. Bobby Ware, Transportation's managing deputy, was the new Transportation commissioner.
And Water Management Commissioner John Spatz was the odd man out. He's expected to be demoted to first deputy.
Powers, Ware and Spatz did not return phone calls.
Ware, 47, is the son of Mitchell Ware, a former deputy police superintendent and former Circuit Court judge who co-founded Chicago's premier minority law firm.
Mitchell Ware's 1998 judicial appointment by then-state Supreme Court Justice Charles Freeman raised eyebrows because the IRS had $318,000 in liens against Ware for unpaid taxes dating back to 1981.
Daley has been under fire for a shortage of African-Americans in top management, particularly after the resignation of Office of Compliance Chief Anthony Boswell, the abrupt retirement of Fire Commissioner John Brooks and the firing of Deputy Water Management Commissioner Tom Talley.
The appointment of Bobby Ware, who is also a lawyer, should appease African-American aldermen. But, the leadership change is somewhat ill-timed. Transportation just kicked off its construction season with Phase Two of the Wacker Drive Drive reconstruction project.
Powers, 42, has been with the department since 1996, spending four years as first deputy and one as acting commissioner. He was never promoted to the permanent job because of the conflict posed by the fact that his brothers work for engineering companies that do business with CDOT. Apparently, no such conflict exists in the Department of Water Management.
Spatz has a background in chemical engineering and used it to focus heavily on water quality. But, Daley views him as a weak manager, sources said.
Spatz was forced to fire Talley after Inspector General Joe Ferguson accused the $127,824-a-year deputy of dispatching city crews to do drain work on private property.
And Spatz has managed to entice just 5,000 homeowners along Chicago's Bungalow Belt to make the switch to water meters instead of paying a flat fee for unlimited use.
Only 1,000 meters have been installed so far, in spite of Daley's seven-year guarantee that water bills during that period will be no higher than they would otherwise have been when the water spigot was flowing freely.
Three years into a $39 million contract, automatic meter readers have now been installed on 140,000 of 162,000 existing meters that measure water usage in tall buildings, businesses and newer homes.
Only after automatic meter readers are up and running can Chicago can begin to cut off the free water spigot by installing meters in the 350,000 households without them.
For months, there has been speculation that Daley may be laying the groundwork to privatize all or parts of Chicago's water system. Some insiders believe Powers may have marching orders to move more aggressively toward that end.
But, top mayoral aides insist that selling off the filtration plants is not in the works and has nothing to do with the changes.
Dave Donovan — brother of Richard J. Daley's longtime patronage chief Tom Donovan — is expected to serve as Ware's operations chief. Dave Donovan currently serves as a deputy commissioner in charge of trades for the Department of General Services.

Michael Tierney, city ditchdigger, caulker, and "Judgemaker" writes Russ Stewart

Michael Tierney and Judge Rochford.jpg Russ Stewart writes. “JUDGEMAKER’S”
ANALYSIS & OPINION BY RUSS STEWART
Every lawyer dreams of being a judge. The robes, prestige, power and pension: It’s the profession’s pinnacle.
In Cook County, there are 40,000 attorneys. And there are 445 judges, of which three sit on the Illinois Supreme Court, 24 on the Appellate Court, and 418 on the Circuit Court. That means one of every 90 lawyers is on the bench.
The qualifications are not onerous: Have a pulse. Be a registered voter and licensed attorney. In theory, any undead lawyer can be a judge, and earn $169,555 annually.
But, in reality, most would-be judges are utterly clueless about the process: Start early, a year prior to the February primary. Get 500-plus signatures on multiple nominating petitions. Run as a Democrat. Get “qualified” ratings from bar associations. Get endorsed by unions and newspapers. Get slated by the Democratic party. Have an Irish surname. Be a woman with an Irish surname. Don’t have a weird surname. Attend political functions and get warm-and-fuzzy with Democratic committeemen. Spend $50,000 for ads and political donations. Win the primary.
And, most importantly, hire Mike Tierney: The Judgemaker.
While obscure to the public, Tierney, who works as a city plumber, has developed his own cottage industry. In the past eleven election cycles, since 1990, Tierney has handled the campaigns of 45 judicial aspirants, and 40 have been nominated in the Democratic primary, and thereafter elected. That’s an astounding 89 percent success rate. Among judges, Tierney’s reputation is legendary.
Tierney’s secret: Institutional knowledge. He knows the process. He knows the players. Lawyers don’t. “They’re busy people,” said Tierney of his clients. “My job is to initiate them. Mentor them. Direct them. And accompany them to key functions.” Already, Tierney is besieged with potential clients for 2012.
Here’s the Tierney Method…. Go read the rest by Russ Stewart at the Nadig Newspapers.

Understanding the Daley, Vrdolyak, Judge Clare Elizabeth McWilliams law system.

Cook county justice system.jpg Quid Pro Quo in the Cook County Court System. Many people are scratching their heads when they see an admitted crook like fast Eddie Vrdolyak, walk away from a fair sentence for his violation of truth, justice, and the American way. When anyone goes in front of a court room, they invest time, money, and effort to persuade a judge and jury to their side. Many people cannot afford justice, but they feel so strong about an issue they are willing to go into debt to clear their name. Understanding the basics of how the Cook County Judicial System works can help you into making a decision into having a lawsuit or not. You must remember, many of the Judges feel they are perfect, keep the blindfolds on, and dispense justice without err. Phooey.
The cold reality is the Quid Pro Quo, favors, backslapping, paybacks, or as we say on my website Clout, Chicago Clout. One of the ways to combat this is to become educated, informed, and diligent in your efforts to make sure you have an equal chance to have the law upheld. Many judges should remove themselves from cases, but they do not. Human nature is to side with those who helped us, and there lies the problem. I started thinking about this when I received a call from David Glowacz, a bright journalist whom accused me of being a journalist. My content might be accurate and interesting, but to become a real journalist is to learn the behind the scene rules that are the icing on the cake. Just like a court room, the real deals are made behind the judge’s chambers. I want you to know I do believe in our system of laws, but we need to find a way to remove politics and favors. A great example is Judge Clare Elizabeth McWilliam, a judge with a great Irish name; she is from the north side of Chicago. I politely called her clerk Virginia and talked to a Jim from her office. Well I just got a message from her clerk Virginia and found out the great indignation of not receiving a call from the judge to discuss matters that concern the public. The judge was too busy, and then through the grapevine I found out Clare did not want to be on my cable show. Remember when a friend coughed into their hand and said B.S.”? I was going through Clare’s Itemized Expenditures for her campaign to become judge. I want to “Clarify” why certain political operatives show up time after time. I wanted to know what the going rate to become a judge was and what is expected from Chicago unions and local politicians to finance their campaigns. I wanted to know what the going rate is to get signatures on a cook county ballot, is the old rate of a dollar per signature fair, or is the current rate of two or three dollars inline. Many real Chicago Journalists might not want to tackle this issue, but now is the time and place. Look at all the players and political operatives that had something to do with Judge Clare Elizabeth McWilliams’s campaign, what do they expect, justice? Patrick McDonough.

City of Chicago Department of Water Management Employee sentenced to eight years

Now the whole story regarding George Prado and the Department of Water Management; Many City of Chicago workers knew what was going down in the Department of Water Management in the North District. George drove a nice Mercedes Benz two door sports car and had prime parking right by the fence in the Wabansia yard. (3822 West Wabansia in Chicago) George had a really nice job of driving the compressor truck, a clout job. This was a job so nice, George was one of the best dressed in the department. Several of the workers were on heroin and everyone knew it. The department gave preferential treatment to these workers, they worked in the yard, the dock, or investigator shift. Some of these guys also move furniture and completed personal errands on city time for the bosses. One of the guys sported a huge chrome gun, showed it to everyone, and nothing was done. Anyone who knew the system knew who gave these guys great treatment. Imagine making full engineer's pay with a do nothing job. Maybe someday the investigators will question George Prado and get an answer on how he could be two places at once. This is a case of looking away from the people that were responsible during his employment with the City of Chicago. This is a case of bosses allowing corruption, Heroin deals, and payroll fraud. Same guys that got away with HIred Trucks. It went on for years at work and the old Inspector General knew nothing? George Prado was a dago wannabe, just another guy that knows more than he told. But, these were the guys that were taken care of, Chicago Style.

Chicago Department of Water Management new educational classes

Union Local 130 Workers.jpg Please make sure you read attached memorandum from Commissioner John Spatz below. Today a memo came out from Commissioner John Spatz, Department of Water Management. The Plumber’s Union will provide Plumbers and Caulkers a class to learn how to work on valves. According to the memo, the department was notified today at 12:42 p.m. of the class. The Department sent out a memo immediately, and left some of the memos around the offices. This memo was not posted. The classes are tomorrow. I called Tom McManus of the Plumber’s Union and he said I am not allowed to attend. Seems these secret classes are only for people Plumber’s Local 130 approves. Despite the fact the memo is on Chicago stationary, only Local 130 members can attend. This is the second class Local 130 tried sneaking past workers at Chicago. That last time it was a locating class. These classes are kept quiet because they only want their friends to attend the classes; they want a leg up when the promotions arrive. Members of Local 1092 asked to attend the class and Tom McManus refused them entry. In Chicago, many of the valves are fixed by the Laborers because the Plumbers are too fat or lazy to enter the basin. Mayor Daley should be made aware the Chicago Department of Water Management workers still face discrimination, harassment, and shakman violations. All classes should be made available to all workers during city time. Not allowing non-union plumbers and caulkers this training is against the law. Tom McManus should work on all the employee grievances he has done nothing about for years. City workers know a scam when they see one. Ask Tom McManus why he is not doing his job; ask why you pay dues for nothing. Photo edited by Patrick McDonough.]]> Continue reading “Chicago Department of Water Management new educational classes”