Scandal-Plagued Chicago Suburb Faces State Scrutiny

CHICAGO (CN) – Over a year after Harvey, Ill., aldermen begged state officials and even President Barack Obama to intervene in the city’s woes, Illinois finally stepped in to block the mayor’s attempt to unilaterally remove aldermen who oppose him.

For over a year, Aldermen Christopher Clark, Joseph Whittington, Shirley Drewenski and Lamont Brown have requested state and federal assistance to stop what they characterize as rampant corruption in Harvey, Ill., allegedly coordinated by Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg.

Kellogg has been mayor of Harvey, a south suburb of Chicago, since 2003.

Last August, the four aldermen wrote a letter addressed to more than a dozen state and federal officials from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to President Obama urging them “in whatever way, under whatever legal authority you may have, to intervene into the City of Harvey.”

The response, until Friday, was silence.

Harvey, with a population of 30,000, has quite a troubled reputation, even in a state that is no stranger to the misconduct of public officials.

The city has faced a slew of lawsuits in the past few years alleging official misconduct and police brutality.

In 2012, an FBI raid found that the city failed to submit more than 200 sexual assault kits for testing. The lapse allowed a Cook County correctional officer to continue to abuse his stepdaughter for years. That case was settled for $1.2 million. The city settled six other women’s cases for $241,000.

In 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission obtained an emergency court order after claiming the city issued a fraudulent bond offering related to a “scheme” that tricked investors into lending millions for a hotel development deal that diverted $800,000 to then-top mayoral aide Joseph Letke.

Mayor Kellogg paid a $10,000 fine, admitting no wrongdoing, and was barred from ever participating in the issuance of municipal bonds. Letke was found dead in September 2016 in an apparent suicide.

Earlier this year, a Harvey police officer was accused of raping a pregnant woman and threatening to arrest her if she resisted. The same officer was sued four years ago for causing a pregnant teenager to miscarry by kneeing her in the stomach and then sending the ambulance away.

Harvey also owes millions of dollars to the city of Chicago in overdue water bills, and millions to its pension fund for retire workers. It has not filed state-required annual audits for years.

After reviewing the city’s finances, the Civic Federation told Fox News in January that the city is “worse than broke,” and key records to determine where the money went are missing.

State officials finally took action with a lawsuit filed Friday in response to Kellogg’s attempt to unilaterally remove the four democratically elected alderman who opposed him. The complaint called for an investigation into the city’s corruption and financial woes.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving, Kellogg announced the removal of Clark, Whittington, Drewenski, and Brown, all of whom were elected to four-year terms in 2015, and “temporarily” appointed two replacements of his own choosing.

“Without any lawful vote by the city council on either the removal or replacement of the four aldermen, and without including either issue on the posted agenda for the council meeting scheduled to take place on that day, Mayor Kellogg swore in Rev. James Sims and Tracy Key as aldermen of Harvey’s third and fourth wards, respectively. Alderman Donald Nesbit and Alderman Keith Price were the only aldermen present for these actions,” according to the complaint, which was filed in Cook County Circuit Court by Attorney General Madigan and state’s attorney Kimberly Foxx.

After appointing Sims and Key to serve as aldermen, Kellogg allegedly declared he had a quorum present and enacted numerous ordinances and resolutions that had been previously blocked by a majority of Harvey’s elected aldermen.

“Mayor Kellogg and the aldermen who assisted him violated the quorum and notice requirements of the Open Meetings Act through their conduct,” the lawsuit states.

The complaint asks the court to declare all resolutions passed on Nov. 28 invalid, revoke the appointments of Sims and Key, and prevent Kellogg from declaring a quorum at the city council’s next meeting, scheduled for Monday.

The city of Harvey did not respond Monday to a request for comment.

The lawsuit is signed by Assistant Attorney General John Wolfsmith and Assistant State’s Attorney Kent S. Ray.