CBS (Chicago)–An annual report released this week ranks Chicago as America’s most corrupt city and Illinois as the country’s third-most corrupt.
Statewide, more than 2,000 public officials were convicted of public corruption during the past four decades, with Chicago cases accounting for 1,706 of those cases.
The report draws data from the U.S. Justice Department. It names recent high-profile cases including the sex abuse scandal and conviction of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and former Congressman Aaron Schock’s 24-count indictment for misusing campaign funds on a luxury lifestyle.
The numbers are “unacceptably high,” according to report author Dick Simpson, a former alderman who teaches political science at the University of Illinois Chicago.
One of Chicago’s most prolific and costly cases is tied to the city’s red light camera scandal.
In 2016, former assistant commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation John Bills was convicted of 20 counts of fraud, extortion, bribery and other crimes.
Now serving a 10-year prison sentence, Bills allegedly accepted more than $500,000 in cash and other kickbacks from red light camera vendor Redflex Traffic Systems. In return, Bills helped secure a $131 million contract for the company to supply Chicago’s red light cameras.
Chicago businessman George Smith is also named in the report. Smith in 2016 admitted to defrauding the state by convincing two state agencies to give him government contracts for the same service. He’s serving two years in prison and was ordered to pay the state $480,000.
Simpson called former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett and former 20th Ward Alderman Willie Cochran two of the most fraudulent public figures in recent years.
Bennett pled guilty to wire fraud and is said to have taken $2 million in bribes for more than $23 million in contracts with education consulting firms.
Cochran was indicted for wire fraud, bribery and extortion for soliciting bribes from an Illinois lawyer who represented developers in his ward.
Chicago’s most corrupt period was the 1990’s, according to the report. That decade saw 610 people convicted of public corruption.
Despite the high-profile public corruption cases that continue making headlines, statewide convictions have dropped during the past six years.
That pattern changed in 2016, however, when the number of convictions in Illinois rose to 35 from 19 the previous year. 2013 saw the most convictions since s with 69, according to the report. The state averages almost 45 convictions for public corruption per year.
Los Angeles was ranked the second-most corrupt city with 1,511 corruption convictions during the past 40 years.