Chicago city clerk investigated in Hired Truck query

| 9/6/2005

Federal investigators in the ongoing Hired Truck scandal are seeking information from Chicago City Clerk James Laski.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, federal agents recently showed up at Laski’s home and asked to interview him. Laski refused, saying he wanted an attorney present for the interview.

Investigators are interested in Laski’s ties to Get Plowed Inc., a trucking company involved in the scandal-ridden Hired Truck program, as well his hiring practices, the Sun-Times reported.

Laski is the latest higher-up in the city’s government to face scrutiny from investigators. On Aug. 30, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of about 300 at a city budget hearing at the South Shore Cultural Center, where he apologized for the level of corruption in the city government and vowed to eliminate it as quickly as possible, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“I know I should have done more to end the corruption more quickly,” Daley said. “I take responsibility for these problems and tonight, I make a commitment to you to do everything within my power to fix them, root out those who engage in misconduct and hold them accountable for their misdeeds.”

Daley’s public apology comes just days after federal investigators interviewed him regarding his involvement with the scandal-ridden Hired Truck program, which has led to charges against 32 people and 23 guilty pleas.

The feds spoke to Daley Aug. 26, about his involvement in the program, but cautioned the public against assuming guilt.

“At this time he’s not a target,” Chicago FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Grant told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He’s a logical interview. He runs city government, he makes decisions.”

Daley quickly called a news conference following the two-hour interview, saying the questioning made him “embarrassed,” “mad” and “disappointed,” but that he would “overcome these challenges,” the Sun-Times reported.

The day before the interview, Daley’s office released employment records related to Hired Truck, but officials said they still haven’t determined the ringleader of the operation.

On Aug. 25, Ron Huberman, chief of staff for Daley, released the employment records of Angelo Torres, a former boss in the program who has already been sentenced to two years in prison, to the public. The records contain information about supervisors and pay raises during a seven-year period, the Chicago Tribune reported.

However, Huberman told the Tribune his office has been unable to determine who promoted Torres. Torres received pay raises 14 times and advanced from a car booter to one of the highest positions in the program in eight years.

“I would like nothing better today than to be able to stand up here and say this is the individual, or the two individuals, or the three individuals directly responsible for the hiring of Angelo Torres,” Huberman told the Tribune. “We are just not able to clearly get at that answer, and it would be unfair to throw out names of any sort because we can’t conclusively say that those are the people responsible.”