Chicago city clerk resigns amidst indictment in Hired Truck scandal

| 2/7/2006

The ongoing investigation into Chicago’s scandal-ridden Hired Truck program has led to the resignation of one of the highest-ranking members of the city’s government.

On Monday, Feb. 6, City Clerk Jim Laski – the first elected official to be charged in connection with Hired Truck – resigned from his position. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Laski switched lawyers, and his new counsel advised him to give up his position and its $135,000-plus yearly salary to preserve both his and the city’s reputation.

Laski, who was preliminarily charged in a federal complaint on Jan. 13, was formally brought up on charges Thursday, Jan. 26, of bribery and obstructing justice for his alleged involvement in the program. However, he returned to work just three working days after being slapped with the charges.

According to the Chicago Tribune, two employees in Laski’s department wore electronic surveillance equipment to gather evidence of his 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.

To date, 42 individuals have been indicted 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 Sun-Times.