ROUNDUP: Give and you shall receive + sleuthing from the inside

>> RIDING THE GRAVY TRAIN
Maybe he should be dodging these types of campaign donations.

Metra board member James V. Dodge (Photo/Village of Orland Park, Ill.)

Metra board member Jim Dodge — in his unsuccessful run for Illinois comptroller earlier this year — accepted $2,750 in campaign money from a Rosemont company called Christopher B. Burke Engineering, state records indicate. Wait, Christopher B. Burke Engineering? That sounds familiar . . .

It should sound familiar to Dodge: Burke Engineering does a lot of business with Metra, has for years. And it serves as “village engineer” in Orland Park, where Dodge sits on the village board.

This is the same Jim Dodge who accepted campaign money and other assistance from an employee of the Acquity Group — after Dodge voted on giving the Chicago company a lucrative contract to revamp Metra’s website.

Is it us, or is the Metra board becoming tiresome?

It’s worth recalling that, like a yardman working the midnight shift, board members were asleep at the switch as former Executive Director Phil Pagano pillaged the commuter rail agency before killing himself this past May.

>> A ‘GRACE-FILLED’ LIFE?
By the way, a different “Burke” is listed in the police reports related to Pagano’s death: Ed Burke.

One of those reports logs a “sealed plastic evidence envelope containing one note pad sheet of paper with the names and numbers of Carole Dorrs . . . and Ed Burke . . . recovered from the kitchen countertop of the residence . . .”

14th Ward Alderman Edward M. Burke (Photo/Office of the Chicago City Clerk)

“Dorrs” apparently is a reference to Metra board chairwoman Carole Doris. We wondered if “Ed Burke” was the Ed Burke, the powerful Chicago alderman.

It’s unclear because the McHenry County sheriff’s office redacted potentially identifying information. “We didn’t attempt to identify who that was,” a police official told the BGA.

But as we poked around, we confirmed through a well-placed source that Pagano and the alderman indeed were pals, which makes sense if you read the memorial resolution put forward by Burke at the May 12 City Council meeting (Page 50 of 409), just days after Pagano’s death. It reads in part:

“Be It Resolved, That we, the Mayor and the members of the Chicago City Council . . . do hereby commemorate Philip A. Pagano for his grace-filled life . . .”

>> SUBURBAN SLEUTHING
We hope you folks enjoy this blog and the material produced by the investigative unit of the BGA. The BGA is here to fight for the public by exposing corruption, waste and ineptitude — among other problems — in government across Illinois.

But clearly we can’t do it alone. Your help is critical. And that’s why we created the Citizen Watchdog Program, which recruits and trains regular folks to attend government meetings and keep tabs on public officials.

It’s worth mentioning someone “unusual” who showed up at one of our first watchdog training sessions: David Stachura, who serves on the board of education in Schiller Park District 81.

Yes, he’s a public official, but make no mistake: this guy is a watchdog, and a thorn in the side of his own agency.

When Stachura’s district was getting rid of old furniture in a school and buying new things, he raised flags, partly by filing dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests with his own organization.

He also zeroed in on Christmas party expenditures by the district, alleging taxpayers had coughed up around $30,000 since 2004.

District Supt. Roberta Taylor challenged that assertion and said Stachura fashions himself a “taxpayer watchdog,” but one “whose perspective is . . . difficult to change.”

Perhaps a polite way of saying the guy’s a pain in the butt.

Either way, people like him are important, especially as community newspapers cut staff and close their doors, and governmental agencies are less scrutinized.

This is how Stachura puts it: “The school district is just tax and spend. There is no respect for the taxpayers’ money whatsoever.” To hear more from Stachura, and learn more about the Citizen Watchdog Program, watch this short video:

This blog entry was reported and written by Robert Herguth, Pat Rehkamp and Joel Ebert. Contact us with tips, suggestions and complaints at (312) 821-9030, or at rherguth@bettergov.org.

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