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November 11, 2012

November 11, 2012

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Published by: Chicago Sun-Times on Nov 19, 2012
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• CHICAGO SUN-TIMES • SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2012

COMMENTARY

Y

issued by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Michael P. Toomin in a different but eerily similar case. Toomin wrote: “We have sworn testimony that is unrebutted undermining the veracity of police reports, contradicting reports . . . CAROL statements of witnesses incorrectly, inaccurately memorialized . . . the absence of MARIN cmarin@suntimes.com recorded police activity in the inception of the case, delays, failure of the identification process, false reports and what I might term the ‘missing files syndrome’. . .” The very same questionable law enforcement conduct that infected the Abbate/ Obrycka case is what we have in the 2004 investigation of an altercation between ou know the video. It went viral from 21-year-old David Koschman of Mount Joliet to Jakarta. Prospect and Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko It was the 2007 attack by off-duty of Chicago. Vanecko is the grandson and Chicago Police officer Anthony Abbate, in a namesake of late mayor Richard J. Daley drunken rage, whaling on bartender Karoand the nephew of former Richard lina Obrycka. M. Daley. Now, in a civil case in federal Koschman and his buddies were court, the question is no longer bar-hopping on Division Street when whether he did it. they ran into 29-year-old Vanecko Abbate was convicted of felony and his friends. Words were exbattery and fired by the CPD though, changed. A single punch was thrown. thanks to a merciful Cook County It hurled Koschman backwards, his judge, he was spared jail time. head crashing to the pavement. He The critical issue now, before Anthony died 11 days later. a still-deliberating federal jury, is Abbate Vanecko fled. Just like Abbate. even bigger. It’s whether a “code of The cops filed remarkably incomplete silence” exists in the Chicago Police Departreports of the incident. As they did with ment that empowered Abbate to think that, Abbate. whatever he did, he would be protected. Files went missing. Ditto in the Abbate This is hardly the first time we’ve concase. sidered the code of silence. Think police In Koschman, there were video camscandals involving Jon Burge. Joe Miederas all along Rush and Division, but cops zianowski. Jerome Finnigan. claimed they didn’t gather that evidence. We The civil lawsuit brought by Obrycka now know investigators suspect that tapes carries haunting echoes of an April ruling

THIS IS HOW A COP COVERUP CAN WORK

Bartender Karolina Obrycka (left) was beaten by Anthony Abbate, an off-duty Chicago Police officer who later was convicted of felony battery and fired. David Koschman (right) died 11 days after he was punched. In both cases, police officers filed incomplete reports and files went missing, and city officials cite bureaucratic snafus but deny any coverup.
still exist. In the Abbate case, the Department had Obrycka sign a blank misdemeanor complaint even though they already were aware of the horrific video. But in court last week, CPD supervisors fell all over themselves claiming they had always wanted it charged as a felony. City officials, in both cases, cite bureaucratic snafus but never, ever any willful coverup. And certainly not, heaven forbid, a code of silence. A jury will decide what really happened in the Abbate/Obrycka case. Meanwhile Dan Webb, the special prosecutor appointed by Judge Toomin, will report his own findings in the Koschman case in the coming months. It’s a case in which the CPD never questioned Vanecko. Never charged him. And until the Chicago Sun-Times began asking questions two years ago, never thought they’d have to explain. They do.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

LYON’S BLAST FROM CORRUPTION’S PAST

ashaw@bettergov.org

SHAW

ANDY

T

hat 19th century quote from the Scottish poet Sir Walter Scott came to mind recently when a familiar name from a political past closer to home, 87-yearold Morgan Finley, surfaced in a Better Government Association investigation of fi-

nancial questions about a little-known public agency in west suburban Lyons Township. Finley, a protege of the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, cut his political teeth in Daley’s 11th Ward Democratic organization; served in the Illinois General Assembly, and was Cook County Circuit Court Clerk in the 1970s. His high-visibility career ended with a 1989 conviction and jail sentence for racketeering and attempted extortion — taking bribes to steer government work to a favored company — but by then he had already established a new political base as the low-visibility, patronage-rich Lyons Township Democratic committeeman. We came across Finley’s name in our investigation of the Lyons Township School Treasurer’s Office and the man who ran it for decades, Robert Healy. The office manages and invests more than $200 million a year for a dozen school

districts in the western suburbs. Healy, who was the agency’s appointed treasurer, recently resigned amid questions about his cashing in more than $500,000 in unused sick, vacation and personal days. As for Finley, we’re told by several sources that he helped Healy get the Lyons treasurer’s job back in the late ’80s. Ed King, the attorney for the school treasurer’s office, also worked for Finley in the circuit court clerk’s office and managed the money in Finley’s political fund at the time of Finley’s corruption case. And the father of another treasurer’s office employee was a close political ally of Finley. We got Finley on the phone to ask about the tangled web, but he wasn’t in the mood. “I don’t want to talk to you,” he barked before hanging up. He may be testy, but at least he’s comfort-

able. Despite his corruption conviction, he is still collecting two taxpayer-subsidized pensions worth more than $90,000 a year. To be clear, Finley isn’t accused of any wrongdoing in this instance, but his past transgressions and long-standing ties to folks in the troubled school treasurer’s office are intriguing, to say the least, and they suggest that the agency represents, or at least represented, one of the last vestiges of his once-mighty political operation. The elected trustees who oversee the school treasurer’s office are pledging major reforms to clean up a mess that, to paraphrase Sir Walter Scott, qualifies as another tangled web with too much deception woven in. Sadly, that description also fits much of our city, county, suburban and state politics over the years. When is enough enough? Andy Shaw is president and CEO of the Better Government Association. Contact: ashaw@ bettergov.org or (312) 386-9097.

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