City clerk back at work; former police commander pleads guilty

| 1/18/2006

Chicago City Clerk James Laski returned to work Tuesday, Jan. 17, just three working days after being slapped with charges for his alleged involvement with the city’s scandal-ridden Hired Truck program. However, he has given no indication of whether he will step down from his position.

On Friday, Jan. 13, Laski was charged with bribery and obstruction of justice in a federal court. Laski was released on $10,000 bond, but is required to wear an electronic tracking bracelet at all times.

According to the Chicago Tribune, two employees in Laski’s department wore electronic surveillance equipment to gather evidence of the city higher-up’s alleged bribe-taking. One of the two unnamed informants told investigators that Laski – who has served as the city’s clerk since 1995 – had asked for $500 to $1,000 in bribes as a tradeoff for city contract work, according to the Tribune.

An affidavit also claims he promised to hire applicants recommended by Donald Tomczak – the city’s former Water Department head, who pleaded guilty to his own charges several months ago – for more support of the Hired Truck program, the Tribune reported.

Also on Tuesday, former Chicago Police Commander Michael Acosta pleaded guilty to soliciting bribes from trucking companies. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Acosta siphoned $4,000 from a large donation that was intended to be used for a police ceremony. He also lied to investigators about his ties to John “Quarters” Boyle, who was sentenced for his involvement last year.

To date, 39 individuals have been charged in the ongoing federal investigation into Hired Truck, in which city officials shook down trucking companies for bribes and campaign donations in exchange for lucrative city work. Twenty-six people have been found guilty or pleaded guilty, including 14 city workers, and 20 people have already been sentenced, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.