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EDITORIAL: ‘Do you know who I am?’ Not yet, but we sure know your type

Friday, July 19, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times
by Sun-Times Editorial Board

commissioner, whoever you are, come clean and apologize.

You fixed a parking ticket — and dressed down a Cook County forest preserve cop for writing a valid citation.

Step up and own it.

When we read of this in the Sun-Times on Thursday, we experienced a sudden feeling of déjà vu. We flashed back to the days when special portable toilets were brought out whenever former Cook County Board President John Stroger hosted his annual political picnic in the Green Lakes forest preserve. We recalled a rich lore of forest preserve ghost payrolling, favoritism, mismanagement and incompetence.

Here’s to old times, you know?

In a report released this week, Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard wrote that an unnamed county commissioner reached out to a “high ranking” Forest Preserve Police official to void a $250 ticket issued last year to somebody who illegally parked in a space reserved for disabled individuals.

The ticket was issued to a “political associate” of the commissioner, who asked the cop and a trainee that classic question: “Do you know who I am?”

(A brief aside here: We think anybody ticketed by a cop who asks “Do you know who I am?” should be required to pay, by law, triple the usual fine.)

Later, the commissioner had the cop and trainee sent to the commissioner’s office to be “personally subjected to criticism.”

After the IG submitted his report, Cook County Forest Preserves Chief of Police Kelvin Pope resigned over his role in the matter.

But the anonymous commissioner and the commissioner’s associate are still out there, hiding, uninclined to face the music.

Alarmingly, this does not appear to be an isolated incident. One longtime forest preserve cop, the inspector general’s office said, reported that “political influence commonly results in the [forest preserve district] extending courtesies to officials in the conduct of law enforcement duties.”

Moreover, it’s fair to wonder whether a commissioner who fixes tickets might also be predisposed to fix contracts and hire useless relatives. This would not be unprecedented.

Richard Boykin, a former member of the County Board, which also acts as the board of the Forest Preserve District, put it well on Thursday: “That is part of the Cook County Way that people don’t want.”

The Cook County Board of Ethics should dig into this one.

It’s a relatively small matter, sure. But political corruption grows from the tiniest seeds.

Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard in his loop office on Tuesday October 16, 2012
Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard in his Loop office in 2012.
Sun-Times Media Sun-Times Media

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