The Chicago Sun-Times has been keeping tabs on how Cicero town president Larry Dominick runs things in the Chicago suburb--and each investigation seems to be more bizarre than the next. The paper's latest probe found that a Chicago hot dog stand has been well taken care of by Cicero's taxpayers.
Dominick has already admitted to putting more than 20 family members on the town payroll, and to spending $500,000 on rubber chickens, pens and backscratchers with his name on them. Cicero officials defended the rubber chicken bill, saying they were promotional items for the town and that residents loved them. The Sun-Times, however, pointed out that Cicero didn't bother with a bidding process for promotional items, instead doling out the contract to a business owned by a Cicero board member.
A new investigation by the paper shows that another business with links to board members has benefitted from the village coffers. Since Dominick took office in 2005, the Sun-Times reports that Cicero spent nearly $120,000 at The Dog Stop on Chicago's Northwest Side:
While the Dog Stop is 8 miles from Cicero Town Hall, it’s still close to home — a paid Cicero town board member has a stake in it, and her two sons, who are highly paid Town of Cicero consultants, have worked there for years.
One son, Craig Pesek, 35, was hired as a consultant to oversee the creation of a new town park with special tax funds, which are meant to be spent on economic redevelopment in Cicero.
At least $26,000 went to a park opening in the community, which was catered by the Dog Stop. Cicero officials denied that Pesek's Dog Stop links had anything to do with the catering deal.
The Civic Federation, a watchdog group, is not buying it.
"It is unreasonable and against the interest of taxpayers of Cicero to use TIF funds for hot dog purchases," Civic Federation President Laurence Msall told the paper.
The Sun-Times editorial board wasn't buying it either. From Monday's editorial page:
We could ask how buying food from a Northwest Side hot dog joint helps Cicero businesses. We could ask why TIF money is being used to buy food. We could even say that nearly $120,000 sounds like a lot of hot dogs.
But we won’t pose any of those questions. Instead, we’ll ask: What exactly is it they’re putting in the mustard that makes it so hard for Cicero officials to see straight?
Money mismanagement and nepotism are not the only allegations being hurled at Dominick. He has also been sued for sexual harassment and wrongful firing based on race. The people of Cicero are also sadly used to corruption.
Former Cicero president Betty Loren-Maltese was arrested in 2002 for her role in an insurance scam that robbed the city of around $12 million. She served six years in prison.
Read more about the hot dog investigation here.