I hail from a family that lived on the south side of Chicago proper in the 1950s; a time when that area was known for its lush city parks, friendly communities, and a general aura of prosperity.
But it was also a city community in which “da mayor” ruled over everything with an iron hand. That man was Richard Daley, Sr., who back in the Nineteen Teens and Twenties, had attended the same city schools as my father. It was not unusual for the phone to ring on a Saturday afternoon and one of Daley’s lieutenants ask to speak with my dad.
Daley was known for a phenomenal memory in which he could meet a ten-year-old at a wedding and then, while out campaigning eight years later, ask if she was still going out with her sweetheart from fourth grade. So, it was not at all surprising that he remembered my dad and knew of his reputation for being an honest CPA, with a great love of number-crunching.
The reason for the call was always the same: Daley needed some help in the comptroller’s office inside City Hall. The mayor’s lieutenant was asking what arrangements would need to be made for my father to consider leaving his current job and start working for the organization.
My father would point out that he was happily employed and was making a decent salary. He remained unwavering about politely refusing, even when offered a significantly larger paycheck.
When my dad hung up, my parents would invariably “discuss his refusal.” Usually my mom would make it clear that if he really was such a smarty pants CPA, why would he turn down such a proposal?
My dad would say, “I am not turning down a job offer; I am turning down the likely possibility of spending five to ten years inside one of Illinois’ lovelier accommodations at some point in the future.” She would tut-tut at him, showing some disgust. He’d then reply, “I’ve visited people inside Illinois prisons – no amounts of money would make me desire to ever spend time there. Even if we could live a bit high on the hog for some time period prior.”
So I grew up knowing that the Democrat Party in Chicago and Illinois was corrupt. Now that I live in California, which is equally corrupt, I still think about the Land of Lincoln. So when I recently happened upon a website that focused on the ongoing corruption in Clark County, IL, I was eager for the details.
Back in November 2014, two military veterans Kirk Allen and John Kraft, who live in Edgar County, IL, decided to have the board members of Clark County placed under citizens’ arrest. From a local Illinois website:
Public boards are used to facing angry crowds, but most have never encountered what happened at one recent meeting in central Illinois.
In what was one of their most epic displays of political crime-fighting, which was captured on video, Allen and Kraft held the entire Clark County Park District Board under citizen’s arrest on May 13, 2014, for violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act, a Class C misdemeanor.
When asked if there would be public comment, one of the board members said, “I vote no.” Followed by five other board members.
Board attorney, Kate Yargus, could be heard on video saying there would be no public comment that night, and told the board members they were “free to go,” even after Kraft’s citizen’s arrest announcement. She tried to cite statute to Kraft, but before she could finish, he said, ‘Just sit down, you are making yourself look like a fool.'”
From the article, it was clear that Yargus was the fool. This pair of citizens had already spent significant time in organizing a group called the Edgar County Watchdogs. And due to their enthusiasm for busting corrupt officials, they did not leave corruption in other Illinois counties alone.
Yes according to the same website, the pair of enthusiastic crime fighters had already:
…driven 102 public officials to resign from their posts, including 33 officials in Edgar County alone. The pair busted the mayor of Redmond for attempting to hold office while living out of town. They represented themselves in court and beat Illinois Assistant Attorney General Emma Steimel in a lawsuit seeking access to state e-mails.
Officials who have resigned due to the Watchdogs’ efforts include a property tax assessor, the Edgar County board chairman, an entire airport board and its manager, the attorney for Kansas Township’s fire department, Shiloh’s superintendent of schools, and Effingham’s health department administrator, among others. After they exposed corrupt, illegal, and self-serving spending habits by the Ford-Iroquois County health department, the entire bureaucracy was dissolved.
In some cases, federal agents have even stepped in to investigate and issue subpoenas to local officials after receiving tips from Kraft and Allen.
So what happened after the County Board was put under citizens’ arrest? Again, according to the article:
Deputies were dispatched to the scene, but instead, that night, Clark County Sheriff, Jerry Parsley, went and personally responded. Parsley said he knew it was a heated situation and felt it would be best if he handled it. He said that Kraft handled the citizen’s arrest responsibly, and the board was definitely in violation of the Open Meetings Act by not allowing the public to speak.
“It’s not that they should have. They’re mandated to,” Parsley said. “The people need to have their voice. It’s not a dictatorship. It’s a democracy.”
The sheriff arrested six of the board members. The seventh board member was not arrested because he voted against the other members. As they were escorted out of the building, the crowd cheered.
November in Illinois is early winter. Many prior winters of discontent had gone into the Edgar County Watchdogs and the most energetic fury that had them reversing the fortunes of corrupt officialdom. Officials in Edgar County and other places then felt a lot more heat than one would imagine ever coming their way.
I, for one, salute my fellow watchdogs. They are an inspiration. After all, I was recently wondering how to proceed here in my county in California. But now, thanks to Mrs. Allen and Kraft, I have a clear template.
For other information about corruption in Illinois, I offer up the excellent documentary: All the Queen’s Horses. It focuses on the embezzlement by one small-town financial officer, Rita Crundwell. Ms. Crundwell managed to steal $54 million from Dixon, IL, over her 20-year reign, while being at the helm of Dixon’s bank accounts. The movie can be viewed here on YouTube.Published in