ROUNDUP: Peepers, Parkers and Loaders — Oh My!

>> PEEPER BACK TO WORK FOR STATE
If you take a peek inside the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) offices in Schaumburg these days, you might see James Stumpner, 48.

Paid nearly $104,000 a year, he’s the bureau chief of maintenance for the IDOT district based in the northwest suburbs. He had been on leave — or suspension — since March, when he was arrested for peeping into a woman’s Crystal Lake apartment. But now he’s back on the job — as of early July — a month after pleading guilty to one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct. An IDOT spokesman explained: “The incident took place outside of working hours, outside of state property.”

This is not Stumpner. (Photo courtesy vvvracer/Flickr)

What’s more, Stumpner served a suspension and “is a vital component to the Bureau of Maintenance in the Chicagoland region. Some of his responsibilities include the direct oversight of the maintenance, operations of snow removal, bridge work, beautification projects.”

Stumpner declined to comment, and his attorney insisted he was not a serial peeper, and was wrongly portrayed as such in early accounts.

Either way, he was sentenced to supervision, fined $500 plus court costs, and ordered to perform 30 hours of community service and complete counseling, according to Demetri Tsilimigras, deputy chief of the McHenry County state’s attorney’s office criminal division. Stumpner also was given a 30-day jail term, but he won’t have to serve it if he keeps his nose clean, Tsilimigras said.

In the meantime, he’s back to making sure our state roads are clean.

>> GOVERNMENT 101
You’d think a public agency with offices smack dab across the street from the BGA’s headquarters would take greater care in following the rules.

A sleek black 2010 Chevy Tahoe hybrid used by the City Colleges of Chicago — which includes seven taxpayer-supported schools — was parked in a tow zone in front of the agency’s headquarters on the 200 block of West Jackson Boulevard on and off for weeks this summer, even after a BGA reporter called to inquire about it. Other vehicles owned by the public college system also park there on occasion.

At least it's a hybrid... (Staff/BGA)

While it’s certainly not the worst thing City Colleges has ever done — anyone remember the huge financial losses suffered in the mid-1990s when the system invested in risky derivatives? — it’s also not the message regular joes like: that M-plated government vehicles don’t have to follow the rules. Which leads us to a request:

>> GIVE US A JINGLE
If you spot government workers slacking, or breaking the rules, please let us know. If you catch it on camera, even better. Send tips to rherguth@bettergov.org or prehkamp@bettergov.org.

>> WHAT A LOAD
Of course it’s not always public employees being naughty — sometimes they’re the victims. Just to see what we’d find, the BGA Investigative Team requested information on thefts from several local governmental agencies.

A lot of pretty basic stuff, it turned out, including leaf blowers swiped from Chicago’s Department of Streets and Sanitation. Among the more noticeable things stolen, though, was a $41,550 Caterpillar Skid Steer Loader from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC).

About 41k went down the tubes when this loader got swiped. (Photo supplied by MWRDGC)

It was purchased a few years back, and within two months of delivery was gone, poof. The sanitary district submitted an insurance claim, but it was denied, officials said.The agency ended up buying another loader, and the thief never was caught.

>> BRINGING DOWN THE HAMMER
There’s a new book out from Ed Hammer, who investigated misconduct in the Illinois secretary of state’s office under George Ryan — or more to the point, tried to investigate misconduct, but often was thwarted.

The book is called “One Hundred Percent Guilty,” and among many other stories, it recalls Hammer visiting Ryan at the ex-governor’s Kankakee home shortly before Ryan headed off to prison for corruption. Hammer asked for an apology for the injustices done to him and his co-workers while Ryan was their boss. Ryan refused.

“I don’t believe the man has a conscience,” Hammer said of the encounter.

Hammer retired from law enforcement in 2002. He sat as a witness in Ryan’s trial, and began working on the book around the same time. He plans to do more writing in his retirement, and has several fiction projects in the works. He also does contracting work with the Illinois Law Enforcement Training & Standards Board, and does some substitute teaching.

Despite all the public corruption he’s witnessed, Hammer still professes some faith in our system of government and its ability to hold public servants accountable. Why?

Hammer laughs.

“My personal experience was, all I heard from the time that Dean Bauer and Scott Fawell and George Ryan took over, . . . that you’re not going to be able to do anything [about corruption in the secretary of state’s office because] George Ryan . . . is the most powerful Republican leader in the state,” he said. “But [the feds] took down the house of cards. The system did work with George Ryan.”

It simply “took a while.”

>> STAY TUNED
Please keep visiting the BGA’s soon-to-be redesigned website, and this blog, because we have a number of investigations about to pop with various media partners.
The staggering level of corruption and waste underscores the importance of an organization such as ours.

These entries were reported and written by Robert Herguth, Pat Rehkamp, Joel Ebert and Sam Barnett. Contact us with tips, suggestions and complaints at (312) 821-9030, or at rherguth@bettergov.org.

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