Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New Charges Filed In Chicago Red Light Camera Bribery Scandal

The former CEO of Redflex Traffic Control Systems has been charged for her role in bribing a former Chicago city manager, John Bills, who accepted bribes from the company in exchange for steering a lucrative city contract to install red light cameras throughout the city according to federal prosecutors. Karen Fenley has been charged with nine counts of mail fraud, three counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery for her part in the alleged $2 million bribery scheme. Bill's longtime friend, Martin O'Malley, who was hired by Redflex as a consultant on the contract, is accused of acting as a bag man for funneling $2 million to Bills in consideration for the contract. O'Malley faces one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. From the Chicago Tribune:
"When public officials peddle influence for profit, the consequences are severe, and when corporate executives enable that corruption, the same rule applies.  We will attack alleged public corruption from every angle," Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said in the press release.
The indictment represents the first charges against Finley and O'Malley in what prosecutors describe as a 10-year conspiracy that began in 2002, when Redflex officials came to City Hall seeking to win a fledgling contract to install automated traffic cameras.
Prosecutors have alleged that Bills, the former transportation official who managed the Redflex red light contract until 2011, coached Redflex officials in a series of clandestine meetings and helped arrange their selection. In return, they allege, Bills received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash spent on a vacation home, a boat and a Mercedes convertible, along with dozens of trips and a condominium near the company's Arizona headquarters.
While most of these sorry cast of characters are tied to the corrupt former mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, who former federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald allowed to skate on massive corruption scandals during his tenure as mayor, at least one has close ties to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The federal indictment claims Fenley funneled money from Redflex to a nonprofit company that later provided a job to Bills after he left his city job. Greg Goldner, a former campaign manager for Emanuel, was paid by Redflex to establish the Traffic Safety Coalition, which campaigned for automatic traffic camera programs. Goldner hired Bills to perform work for the coalition at the same time it was assisting Emanuel in lobbying the state legislature to legalize speed cameras in Illinois. Goldner denies he was influenced by Redflex to hire Bills.

Redflex was the leading contender for a speed camera contract in Chicago until the red light camera scandal broke and Emanuel disqualified the company. Emanuel cancelled Redflex' contract for red light cameras and replaced it with ACS/Xerox, the same company that used the influence of former Mayor Steve Goldsmith and its lobbyists at Barnes & Thornburg, to win Indianapolis' contract to manage the City's parking meter assets. A Chicago Tribune investigation found that city motorists were being ticketed by Redflex for traffic lights they never ran in a scheme to drive profits for the company and more revenues for the city's coffers. Class action lawsuit have been spawned as a result of the allegations.

Former City County Council President Ryan Vaughn rammed approval of ACS/Xerox' parking meter deal through the council despite the fact that he worked as a lobbyist for Barnes & Thornburg at the time. He subsequently resigned from the council and the law firm to become Ballard's chief of staff. Former U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett, a Democrat now running for mayor, refused to launch an investigation despite overwhelming evidence that the entire parking meter privatization process had been corrupted by self-dealing insiders. Wouldn't life be nice if we actually had prosecutors in Indianapolis who prosecuted public corruption like they do in Chicago?


Anonymous said...

So where have the Feds been regarding the corruption that is The Regional Operations Center here?

Oooopsy, it appears they were running for Mayor of Indianapolis.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Back when J. Edgar Hoover ran the FBI, he used to reassign agents who pissed him off to the Indianapolis office. Things apparently haven't changed much. Only people owned by the downtown mafia are allowed to become U.S. Attorneys. Combine the dumping ground FBI office with a corrupt U.S. Attorney's Office and you get the results we have here. Like I've often said, Chicago pols should relocate to Indianapolis where they can ply their trade with immunity.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Ryan Vaughn's connection with ACS was more than simply being an an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg. He was a registered lobbyist for ACS with the state.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Don't you remember, Paul. Ryan said that was just a mistake made by his secretary. He wasn't supposed to be registered as a lobbyist for ACS, at least not officially.

Anonymous said...

It shows how conquered and cowardly Americans are they they don't shoot out every red light or speed camera.