A federal grand jury began a new chapter in the history of Chicago corruption Wednesday, indicting more than half of the city's residential sewer inspectors for allegedly taking $30,000 in bribes, most of them in $10 and $20 bills during the last five years.
Eleven current and three former inspectors are accused of extortion, racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering in a 400-page indictment alleging that the bribery scheme has been part of doing business in Chicago for at least 15 years. Three hundred bribes are spelled out in the single, 85-count indictment.
"This is part of a larger and ongoing investigation of municipal and inspectional services," said Anton R. Valukas, the U.S. attorney for Northern Illinois. The indictment was the result of a three-year investigation by FBI agents that began during the administration of former Mayor Jane M. Byrne.
In exchange for the alleged bribes, inspectors reportedly issued licenses and permits for contractors to hook into city sewer lines, certified that work was done properly and issued reports indicating that city building codes were followed.
Wednesday's grand jury action is the largest single federal crackdown on municipal corruption since 1978 when 29 city electrical inspectors were indicted for allegedly taking bribes and 21 were convicted. It comes in the midst of a series of trials resulting from a four-year federal undercover investigation of corruption in the Cook County court system.
Chicago's sewer department, if one of the less glamorous fiefdoms in City Hall, has been one of its most politically powerful. It was a refuge of tough ward heelers and patronage employees, some of whom were convicted of stealing votes in recent years.
Department Head Fired
Mayor Harold Washington, in one of his first acts after being elected on a pledge to clean up government, fired Edward A. Quigley, who had headed the sewer department for more than 20 years under four mayors.
Quigley, a former theater doorman, was known around City Hall for his fine silk shirts, diamond cuff links and a jewel-studded wristwatch.
Named in Wednesday's indictment were Nicholas Caputo, 43; Donald DuPart, 51; Andrew Federinko, 55; Hensley Garner, 47; Leo Gruenholz, 45; Donald Hojnacki, 51; James Jenkins, 43; Harold Knies, 69; Thomas Logan, 65; Rhey Orme, 36; Moise Owens, 58; John Pagone, 64; Chester Syke, 72; and Morris Wernick, 59.
City officials said that all those still on the payroll will be shifted to other jobs pending their trials.