Former city clerk pleads guilty in Chicago's Hired Truck case

| 3/20/2006

The most prominent figure to emerge from the ongoing investigation of Chicago’s Hired Truck program – and first elected official to be charged in the case – has pleaded guilty.

On Friday, March 17, former City Clerk Jim Laski pleaded guilty to one count of bribery. According to the Chicago Tribune, Laski admitted to taking about $48,000 in payoffs from trucking companies in exchange for lucrative work with the city.

Upon conviction, Laski could face up to 10 years in prison, although he is expected to be sentenced to three years, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

According to the Tribune, two employees in Laski’s department wore electronic surveillance equipment to gather evidence against him. 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 trade-off 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 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 34th person to have pleaded guilty or to have been found guilty. Twenty-one people – 17 of whom are city workers – have already been sentenced, according to the Sun-Times.