Laski expected to plead guilty in Hired Truck case

| 3/16/2006

Former Chicago City Clerk Jim Laski is expected to plead guilty Friday, March 17, for his alleged involvement in the city’s scandal-ridden Hired Truck program.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Laski will admit to taking approximately $48,000 in bribes to help a friend get work for his trucking business. If convicted, Laski, the former high-ranking city employee, could face up to 10 years in prison.

On Feb. 13, Laski pleaded not guilty and asked for time to work out a plea bargain. Originally, there was no indication of whether Laski would cooperate with the feds in the ongoing investigation as part of the agreement; however, the Sun-Times reported that he will not.

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.

Laski was preliminarily charged in a federal complaint on Jan. 13 and formally brought up on charges Jan. 26 for 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.

On Feb. 6, Laski – the first elected official to be charged in connection with Hired Truck – resigned from his position. According to the 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.

To date, 44 individuals have been charged in the ongoing federal investigation into Hired Truck. If Laski does plead guilty, he will be the 31st person to have pleaded guilty or to have been found guilty. Seventeen city workers, and 21 people have already been sentenced, according to the Sun-Times.