The Chicago Tribune conducted an investigation into allegations into a Chicago City Hall corruption scheme. The allegations involved the city’s red-light program and John Bills, a former Chicago Department of Transportation official. Bills was in charge of the program that was designed to expand Chicago’s camera system, beginning in 2003, with the goal of targeting speeders in school and park zones. Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. was awarded the $600 million contract. Because of the Tribune’s investigation, the Chicago City Hall corruption scheme central figure was investigated, charged, found guilty and sentenced to prison.
The Tribune found that Redflex paid Bills’ transportations and tickets to sporting events, and paid for luxury hotels. As a result of finding the allegations had merit, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel cancelled all contracts with Redflex and prohibited it from bidding on any future projects. Redflex admitted it had paid Bills’ $910 luxury hotel charges and did not report it to city hall for two years. City employees are prohibited from taking gifts and it prohibits contracts from taking them. The ethics violation was referred to corporate counsel and to the city inspector general’s office for investigation by the Mayor.
As a result of the investigation, Bills was charged with 20 criminal counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, extortion under color of official right, conspiracy to commit brigery, bribery, and filing false tax returns. He was found guilty of all charges in January 2016.
The evidence presented at trial proved that Bills manipulated others to ensure that the contract was awarded to Redflex, coached Redflex executives before their meetings with city officials, advised them of lobbyists they should hire, and which politicians to make contributions to. As a result of Bill’s efforts on behalf of Redflex, the company gave him over $560,000 bribe money, and gifts including a condominium, car, and numerous luxury hotel stays and vacations. To top it off, when Bills retired from the City of Chicago in 2011, he went to work for Redflex as a consultant.
Bills faced up to 304 years in prison on the 20 counts he was charged with, and ultimately convicted of. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall on August 29, 2016, to ten years in prison and an undisclosed amount of fines. Others involved in the case have either been convicted, charged, or are currently under investigation. According to the Chicago Tribune, Redflex has almost abandoned its entire red light camera business in the United States since the investigation began in 2012. Criminal investigations are ongoing into Redflex’s business practices in both the United States and in Australia.
The above is only one of the many suspected cases of governmental corruptions United States wide. This is just one that happened to get caught and convicted. I believe this type of corruption is rampant in all governmental entities in one way or another, including Washington D.C. and Congress. Big money lobbyists, huge donations from special interest groups to particular Congressional members that will help get bills either blocked or passed, depending on the donor’s wishes, and corrupt Senators and House Representatives that play along. There needs to some kind of measure enacted designed that will stop the abuse of power. But, that is not likely to happen in today’s political environment. How would you get such a law passed?