Sunday, September 03, 2006

Feds seize records of Daley aide - Jobs probe seeks files on Hispanic political group

Feds seize records of Daley aide - Jobs probe seeks files on Hispanic political group
By Todd Lighty, Dan Mihalopoulos and Laurie Cohen, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporter Jeff Coen contributed to this report
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published September 3, 2006

Federal authorities investigating illegal hiring in Mayor Richard Daley's administration have subpoenaed documents from the mayor's former campaign manager relating to a Hispanic political group that has provided crucial campaign support to Daley and his allies.

Authorities subpoenaed records on the Hispanic Democratic Organization from the mayor's 2003 campaign manager, Gregory Goldner, whose Resolute Consulting company did political work for the group. Goldner worked in Daley's office under top aide Victor Reyes, HDO's chairman and a focus of the City Hall corruption investigation.

The subpoena earlier this year followed disclosures in the Tribune in January that Reyes' sister, Virginia Reyes, kept a confidential list at Resolute to track HDO campaign workers who wanted government jobs and promotions.

Federal authorities are asking about that list and interviewing former HDO members as they investigate how the group benefited from an illegal patronage scheme to rig city hiring in favor of politically connected applicants.

HDO has been the most potent force in what prosecutors have described as a new "corrupt clout machine" that has helped Daley dominate local politics for more than a decade. The group often helped elect the mayor's chosen candidates in close races by dispatching members to register voters, pass out campaign literature and offer city services. Hundreds of HDO members won coveted city jobs and promotions.

Federal authorities showed the HDO jobs list kept by Virginia Reyes to a former volunteer with the organization three months ago, the volunteer said in an interview last week. Investigators asked about the jobs list and about other lists of HDO members and contributors.

The volunteer, who asked not to be identified, said investigators also asked about visits to Resolute by Victor Reyes, former top Daley aide John Doerrer and Robert Sorich, a mayoral aide who was convicted July 6 in the hiring fraud investigation.

"They had boxes and boxes" from Resolute, the former volunteer said.

Goldner, who stopped working for HDO about a year ago, has been interviewed by federal investigators. He declined to comment Friday on the subpoena to his company or on what he told authorities.

HDO was mentioned repeatedly at the federal trial that resulted in the convictions of Sorich, who was Daley's patronage chief, and three other former city officials. Witnesses testified that Victor Reyes and another HDO leader, former Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez, pushed for the hiring of unqualified HDO members.

Prosecutors have named both Reyes and Sanchez as co-schemers, but neither has been charged with wrongdoing.

Reyes headed Daley's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, which prosecutors have described as the center of the hiring fraud, for more than five years. Even though he left City Hall in December 2000 to become a lobbyist, prosecutors have alleged that Reyes "continued to exercise substantial influence" in city personnel decisions.

Reyes has denied that he improperly gave jobs to HDO members. His lawyer, Thomas Breen, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Sanchez's lawyer, Daniel Pierce, declined to comment.

Close connections

Until recently, HDO used Resolute's business address for its mailing address. HDO has paid Goldner, Resolute and an affiliated company more than $225,000 for political consulting since 2002, according to state and federal records. Resolute also has done work for public agencies, including the Chicago Transit Authority and the Illinois Department of Transportation, and for city garbage contractor Allied Waste.

Daniel Katalinic, a former high-ranking Streets and Sanitation official and head of a "white ethnic" patronage army, testified at the Sorich trial that he took election-season orders from Goldner on where his political troops should campaign.

Besides managing Daley's campaign, Goldner also worked on the 2002 campaign of U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and the March primary campaign of former Cook County Board President John Stroger.

Both Goldner and former Resolute employee Natalie Ybarra--who also was a paid staffer for Daley's 2003 campaign--appeared on a list of potential government witnesses at the Sorich trial. Neither was called to testify.

Virginia Reyes, now an HDO director, kept the jobs list on a computer she used at Resolute. Goldner has said the company paid Virginia Reyes to help organize HDO's 2003 fundraiser at Navy Pier.

Virginia Reyes, a lawyer, has held several public jobs and now runs Toltec Plumbing Contractors. She could not be reached for comment.

The Tribune obtained the list after it was taken from Resolute's offices in 2003. It contains names of 52 HDO campaign workers, the public jobs they wanted and their leaders in the organization.

The Tribune reported in January that at least 23 people on the list appeared to hold public jobs at the city, Cook County and the Chicago Park District. About a dozen got their jobs or promotions around the time the list was taken from Resolute.

One job seeker on the list, Melvin Tunstill, wanted to be a janitor for Cook County government. He was hired in January 2004 to work at Stroger Hospital. Reached by the Tribune, Tunstill said that he never worked for HDO, but that his wife is a niece of state Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago), an HDO leader. Federal records show that HDO paid Tunstill $48 for helping with a voter-registration drive in 2003.

Acevedo has previously said he did not get a job for Tunstill or for anyone else.

Another name on the list was Macaria Paniagua-Berlanga, who was unemployed but wanted to be a city truck driver. She became a full-time truck driver in Streets and Sanitation in July 2004. According to the list, her political sponsor was Al Sanchez, who headed the department at the time.

Federal authorities have recently interviewed a number of current and former HDO members, sources said.

One person who acknowledged being questioned was Yolanda Vasquez, a former HDO secretary who now works at the Park District. Vasquez said she compiled lists of HDO volunteers.

Federal agents showed Vasquez numerous HDO lists containing names, addresses and telephone numbers, she said. "They had a bunch of lists," she said. "I was there for hours looking at lists."



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