From the Chicago Tribune:TRIBUNE INVESTIGATION
City employs 1,200 tied to Daley groups
By Dan Mihalopoulos, Laurie Cohen and Todd Lighty, Tribune staff reporters.
Tribune staff reporter Liam Ford contributed to this report
Published July 24, 2005
More than 1,200 city workers--most in jobs that are supposed to be free from
political influence--belong to a select few groups that have supported Mayor
Richard Daley, a Tribune investigation has found.
And most of those employees get their paychecks from City Hall departments
targeted in a federal investigation of hiring.
High-level mayoral allies including former top Daley aide Victor Reyes, Chicago
Park District General Supt. Tim Mitchell, Chicago Housing Authority chief Terry
Peterson, Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th) and Ald. Patrick Levar (45th) have played
key roles in the organizations.
Nearly four out of every 10 people who register voters for the pro-Daley groups
have city jobs, according to the Tribune's analysis.
That contrasts with Jesse Jackson Sr.'s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, which has more
voter registrars than the other groups but much less influence in the Daley
regime. Jackson's group has only 3 percent of its registrars on the city
The Tribune compared city payroll records with rosters for political groups that
register voters. The analysis suggests extensive connections between city jobs
and the mayor's political operation, a finding consistent with federal
prosecutors' allegations that Daley administration officials rewarded campaign
supporters with jobs and promotions.
More than 11,000 people are listed as election registrars for 218 Chicago civic
organizations. About 2,200 of those individuals are city employees, yet seven
pro-Daley groups account for more than 1,200 of the jobs.
"Some get more promises than jobs, but a substantial number do in fact get
jobs," said Democratic U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, a former alderman and Daley
critic. "Otherwise they wouldn't join."
Prosecutors allege that Robert Sorich, a top aide in the mayor's Office of
Intergovernmental Affairs, rigged hiring tests and interviews to favor Daley
allies in a "massive fraud" that spanned more than a decade. In criminal
complaints filed last week, prosecutors alleged that Sorich directed political
armies to campaign for the mayor and for politicians that Daley supported.
The Daley administration has maintained that most City Hall hiring has been free
of politics under a 1983 federal court decree named for attorney Michael
Shakman, who successfully challenged the widespread use of patronage. Under the
Shakman decree, all but about 1,000 of the city's 38,000 jobs must be filled
based on merit.
City Hall watchers say mayoral strategists have reinvented the traditional
Chicago Democratic machine, which dispensed patronage through aldermanic ward
organizations. Since Daley's 1989 election, most of the ward groups have lost
strength and the perks of power have gone to new groups loyal to the mayor.
"They're all the building blocks of a political machine," said Ald. Ricardo
Munoz (22nd). "They are given marching orders from the administration on who to
support on Election Day."
Exact figure impossible
Determining a precise number of voter registrars on the payroll is impossible
because city officials decline to release addresses of employees. Without
addresses, it is difficult to match those on the registrar list with names on
the payroll list.
Still, it's clear that the Hispanic Democratic Organization, directed by Reyes,
leads the list of political groups with members on the payroll. An estimated 500
of its 1,173 registrars are in city jobs.
In a written response to questions from the Tribune, Reyes said the group does
not promise jobs to those who volunteer. He pointed out that many of the group's
volunteers do not have city jobs.
Reyes, now a lobbyist, said the organization supports Daley but added that
neither the mayor nor anybody else at City Hall directs its activities.
In the second spot on the list, with about 350 members in city jobs, is a
little-known group called the Lakefront Independent Democratic Organization.
State records show the group's founders included Mitchell, a former mayoral
deputy chief of staff, and Dave Ochal, now a deputy commissioner in the city's
The lakefront organization registered voters on behalf of Daley in 1995 and
1999, when the mayor ran for re-election, former volunteers said.
Mitchell said he has not been active in the group since about 1997. But he only
withdrew his name as the president last month, and state officials have since
deemed the group inactive.
"It was absolutely non-political and non-partisan," Mitchell said.
Ochal, through a city spokeswoman, said he has not been politically active for
more than a decade and "has no recollection of any involvement" with the group.
Other pro-Daley organizations with high percentages of members in city jobs
include the New 17th Ward Democratic Organization, previously led by Chicago
Housing Authority chief Terry Peterson, and the Daley family's 11th Ward
A spokeswoman for Peterson said he gave up his leadership position in the 17th
Ward Democratic group in 2000 when Daley appointed him to head the CHA. The
group's new leader, Ald. Latasha Thomas (17th), said she cannot explain why so
many of the people on the list have city jobs.
"Nobody is coming in saying, `I want to be a deputy registrar so you can get me
a city job,'" she said.
John Daley, the mayor's brother and chairman of the 11th Ward Democratic
Organization, did not return calls seeking comment.
More than 100 voter registrars sponsored by two West Side groups tied to Ald.
Carothers have city jobs. Carothers heads the Community Action Council and
received campaign contributions from Citizens for a Better Westside, state
records show. Citizens for a Better Westside is headed by Thomas Simmons, a
deputy commissioner in the city's General Services Department.
Carothers declined to comment. Simmons acknowledged that a fair number of his
members are city workers but said most were already working for the city when
Jackson urges review
The Tribune analysis also found scores of city workers listed as volunteers for
two groups linked to Ald. Levar, chairman of the City Council's Aviation
Committee. Many of those registrars work for the Aviation Department.
A registrar group formed by Levar in 2002 has 71 members, about 35 of whom work
for the city. Levar said the group worked for his and Daley's re-election
campaigns in 2003 and disbanded.
"I tell people who are qualified to go down [to City Hall] and fill out an
application," Levar said. "Some get hired, some don't."
A majority of the registrars with city jobs work in four departments that have
drawn the scrutiny of federal agents: Streets and Sanitation, Water Management,
Aviation and Transportation.
Jesse Jackson Jr., a potential challenger to Daley in 2007, said "there seems to
be a near-perfect correlation" between clout-heavy groups and city employment.
Jackson said U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald should look at the connection.
Dozens of current and former City Hall department heads, personnel chiefs and
others have cooperated with the federal investigation.
One of those cooperating with the probe, sources said, is Daniel Katalinic, who
retired from the city in June 2003 as a deputy commissioner in the Streets and
Sanitation Department. Sources said Katalinic secretly recorded a conversation
he had with Sorich about hiring.
In 1999, Katalinic said Sorich instructed him to form his own political group
within Streets and Sanitation, according to the criminal complaint. Sorich
allegedly told Katalinic that the mayor's organization "needed a group of white
political workers to complement existing groups of African-American and Hispanic
city workers" within the department.
Within that department, the major Hispanic political group is the Hispanic
Democratic Organization and the major black political organization is run by
Carothers, a former deputy commissioner in Streets and Sanitation.
Hiring allegations outlined
Sorich gave orders to Katalinic's group about which candidates to support,
according to the complaint. Katalinic allegedly told Sorich that to keep the
political organization together he would have to reward campaign workers with
Among the campaign workers Sorich and other city officials allegedly helped was
truck driver Aaron Wortman, who worked for Katalinic's group.
Wortman was a soldier serving in Iraq at the time he supposedly sat for his job
interview in Chicago--and got the highest rating. Katalinic allegedly lobbied
for Wortman's hiring in Streets and Sanitation.
Wortman said federal authorities questioned him about how he obtained the job.
He declined to comment further.
Bradley Levin, Wortman's father-in-law, said that a city official interviewed
Wortman after he returned from Iraq.
"After the interview, (she) told him, `I hope you get the job. Mayor Daley likes
service guys,'" recalled Levin, who retired in 2003 from Streets and Sanitation.
Katalinic did not return messages seeking comment.
"The Katalinics are good and decent people. This publicity is very difficult for
them," said Dan Katalinic's lawyer, Jeffrey Steinback.
Sorich could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Michael Goggin, said Sorich
will plead not guilty and that "he intends to fight this through trial."
According to the criminal complaint, the mayor's Office of Intergovernmental
Affairs played a role in the 2001 promotion of a city worker with longtime ties
to Ald. Richard Mell's 33rd Ward Democratic Organization.
Interviews for the position of general foreman of 600 truck drivers allegedly
were conducted but were irrelevant. Intergovernmental Affairs had "determined
the job selection; the interviews did not affect the outcome," according to the
The employee told a ward official he was bidding for the general foreman post,
and the official said he would tell the alderman, according to the complaint.
The employee allegedly told authorities that being in a political organization
"kept [him] working." He also said he did not know whether the alderman had any
influence in him getting the promotion but that he suspected his union had some
The description of these events fits the March 2001 promotion of Jack Bataoel, a
Mell volunteer who was the only general foreman to receive such a promotion that
year. He also gave $200 to Mell's campaign committee later in 2001.
Mell declined to comment.
Bataoel, now retired, said federal authorities have interviewed him about how he
obtained his promotion.
"I was more than qualified," Bataoel said. He declined to answer any further
questions, saying he wanted to speak with his lawyer.
Bataoel and Wortman both were listed as voter registrars.