Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo says he got a friend’s parking ticket voidedArroyo told the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday that he was the unnamed commissioner in the Cook County Inspector General’s report.
Friday, July 19, 2019
by Rachel Hinton
Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. was the commissioner who used clout to get a friend’s parking ticket voided, which led to the Forest Preserve police chief’s resignation this week.
Arroyo told the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday that he was the unnamed commissioner in the Cook County Inspector General’s report.
Arroyo said his decision to step in and help his political pal Luis Pena, who Arroya said is the 36th ward superintendent, was to make sure “[Latinos] are being treated fairly by our officers. That goes for all Latinos in Cook County, not just someone I know.”
In a report released Monday, Inspector General Patrick Blanchard found that Pena used his political connections to make a $250 parking ticket disappear.
According to the ticket, which was obtained by the Sun-Times through a Freedom of Information Act request, Pena was ticketed for parking in a handicapped spot Sept. 8, 2018, and was fined $250.
When he was handed the ticket, Pena allegedly asked the officer and an accompanying trainee “Do you know who I am?”
Pena then called Arroyo about the ticket, who contacted a “high-ranking [Forest Preserve Police] official” about voiding the citation, according to the report. The commissioner said the officer “displayed a poor attitude” and asked for the cop to be sent to his office for questioning, the report said.
The ticket was later dismissed, but the officer was sent to Arroyo’s office to be “personally subjected to criticism,” the inspector general’s report said.
In an interview with the inspector general’s office, Arroyo acknowledged reaching out to the top cop to “challenge the issuance of the ticket” and to “address problems between minority and law enforcement communities” and to go over the procedure for challenging the ticket.
That explanation “strained credulity,” according to Blanchard’s report, because the commissioner also acknowledged none of the “historical problems” of community-police relations were at play, and the ticket-challenging procedure was listed on the ticket.
Forest Preserves Police Chief Kelvin Pope stepped down Tuesday in light of the report. Forest Preserves General Supt. Arnold Randall thanked Pope for his service even though he “intervened in the matter” depicted in Blanchard’s report.
Arroyo said he got involved over Pena’s ticket after seeing a man yell at a woman for wearing a shirt with the Puerto Rican flag while a Forest Preserves police offer looked on in July 2018.
That incident, which was captured on video, went viral and sparked controversy.
The officer eventually stepped down, but for Arroyo, to “have that incident happen months before — I wanted to make sure that Mr. Pena was not being targeted” and that others are not being targeted, as well.
“I wanted to make sure our Latino community was not being attacked in the Forest Preserves by members of law enforcement,” Arroyo said. “I was one of two Latinos on the board at that time and at this time. I wanted to make sure we’re being treated fairly and make sure we’re being treated fairly by our officers.”
Arroyo said he supports law enforcement and has no intention of stepping down. “This is nothing more and nothing less than trying to make sure we’re being treated fairly,” Arroyo said. “And that goes for all Latinos in Cook County, not just someone I know.”
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s floor leader, said he didn’t want to comment until he reads the inspector general’s report said and sees what Blanchard recommended.
According to city records, Pena makes $90,828 in his role as ward superintendent.