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Chicago Tribune
John Kass

`Quarters' is small change compared to other insiders


Published October 8, 2004

 

It's amazing, but these days reporters are giving the mayor no quarter on Quarters.

On Thursday, Mayor Richard Daley was asked about John "Quarters" Boyle, who was convicted of stealing $4 million from the Illinois Toll Highway Authority, then was given a cushy city job, and who was charged the other day with taking bribes for contracts in the Hired Truck scandal.

First, Daley said lifting $4 million shouldn't disqualify Boyle from gainful public employment.

Reporter: Would stealing $4 million from another public agency disqualify somebody from a city job?

"No, I don't think so," Daley said.

Then a few minutes later, after some perspiring and strange facial expressions, he abruptly changed course. He said that a guy who stole $4 million from the public probably should be disqualified from expecting the public to pay his salary.

"If that was a mistake, it was a mistake," Daley said.

Reporter: Was hiring him a mistake?

"Yes, it could be," Daley said.

Reporter: And whose mistake was it?

"I don't know. He went through the process and got hired. And that's it and now he is terminated," Daley said.

Reporter: Was it a matter of somebody sending somebody?

"I don't know."

Reporter: And it was a mistake?

"Yes, it was," Daley said.

Reporter: It was a mistake to hire him?

"Sure," Daley said.

Who says only presidential candidates can flip-flop on matters of state? No wonder Daley wants Sen. John Kerry elected president. With Kerry in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice, Daley might get to involve himself in picking the next U.S. attorney in Chicago.

This would be helpful to some because City Hall is under investigation on several fronts. A city towing company put together by his cronies is under investigation, suspected of interstate car theft.

His friends the Duffs, tough pinkish white guys who magically received $100 million in affirmative action contracts, have been indicted. They are scheduled to go on trial in January.

And the Hired Truck investigation continues, with several City Hall insiders being charged in shakedowns for trucking contracts. One of these is Boyle. Another is Angelo Torres, a Hispanic Daley Organization flunky charged with the same thing, but nobody at City Hall knows who hired him.

I guess Torres just showed up, saying somebody sent him and they put him in charge of a $40 million program.

After Daley entertained the media with his tap-dancing act, the feds added another person charged with the truck scheme: Martin McDonagh, 36, of Naperville was charged with lying to the FBI about whether he paid bribes.

While watching Daley flip-flop on Quarters is instructive, there is another name more important: Donald Tomczak, a top 11th Ward Democratic precinct captain who for decades was boss of the Water Department.

Tomczak has not been charged with a crime. But he is believed to be "Water Department Official A" in the federal charges issued this week against his underling, the alleged bagman Gerald Wesolowski.

That should terrify Daley and the rest of the Bridgeporters. Here's why:

Wesolowski was charged with accepting bribes and shakedowns for personal use and political contributions. According to the charges, "Official A" and Wesolowski ran the Hired Truck kickback scheme in that department. Some of the money was given to "Candidate A," a relative of "Official A," the charges said.

Tomczak's son, Jeff, was a candidate then. Now he's the Will County state's attorney. He's a Republican. The Republican Tomczak was elected in 2000, when his Democratic father sent Hired Truck contributions and armies of Democratic City workers into Will County to elect his son.

That's the kind of bipartisanship Daley loves, especially when the prize is the power of subpoena.

Quarters is more sexy because of his nickname, but Don Tomczak is more thrilling because of the people he knows.

He's a good friend of Marina Cartage trucking boss Mike Tadin, a pal of Daley's who reaped millions on trucking and other kinky city deals. Tomczak is also close to mayoral brain Tim Degnan, who bought hundreds of acres of Will County land near the proposed airport at Peotone.

You can almost hear federal prosecutors thinking: Wesolowski to Tomczak to Degnan and Tadin. These political guys don't deal in quarters.

But somebody better start dealing in self-preservation, based on what First Deputy U.S. Atty. Gary Shapiro said Thursday about anyone who may be involved.

"If this is all about naked self interest as it always is, the thing they've got to be thinking about is whether they want us as enemies too," Shapiro said.

The song remains the same. The first guy on the federal bus always gets the best seat. And it doesn't cost a quarter.

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jskass@tribune.com
 

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