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Editorial: A plea for help in Harvey

Friday, August 21, 2015
Chicago Tribune
by Editorial

A series of Tribune investigations since 2013 has raised alarming issues about the south suburb of Harvey. The result has been ... no meaningful change.

On July 31, three members of the Harvey City Council — Christopher Clark, Joseph Whittington and Shirley Drewenski — signed a letter pleading with influential public officials to intervene "in whatever way" to stop what they see as corruption, lawlessness and financial mismanagement in their city. The aldermen begged for help from more than a dozen elected officials and agency heads — from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger to FBI Director James Comey to President Barack Obama.

The aldermen are desperate to save their city. In June, four of them were pushing to bring Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to town to investigate allegations of mismanagement. Dart has offered to serve as inspector general for suburban towns that need more oversight but can't afford to hire a watchdog. Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg and his allies abruptly adjourned and left the council meeting. Someone turned off the lights, leaving everyone in the dark. The proposal to give Dart more authority fizzled.

It's a common theme — chaos — in a suburb that has struggled with poverty and crime for decades. The people of Harvey seem to lose at every turn. And outside officials evidently don't care:

•Harvey is known for epic power struggles, including racially charged mayoral elections involving former Mayor Nick Graves and Kellogg. Kellogg's win in 2003 was supposed to resurrect Harvey. But his first term brought questions of nepotism, corruption and an inept police department. In 2004, the U.S. Treasury Department subpoenaed personnel files of more than two dozen current and former police officers. They had worked on the side at a strip club that was also on the feds' radar.

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