by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer
CHICAGO (CBS) — Patrick Doherty, a high-ranking Cook County official, has been indicted on federal bribery charges accusing him of conspiring to pay bribes to a relative of an Oak Lawn village trustee in order to install new red light cameras in the southwest suburb.
Doherty, 64, who serves as chief of staff to Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, is charged with two counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy to defraud. Tobolski is not named in the indictment and has not been charged with a crime.
According to the indictment, Doherty also worked as a sales agent for a company with a contract to operate red light cameras in Oak Lawn, and as part of his employment with them, received a portion of the proceeds from red light camera violations generated by their cameras. The indictment does not identify the company, but Oak Lawn officials confirmed the company is SafeSpeed, which is at the center of an ongoing federal probe.
Federal prosecutors say, starting in 2017, Doherty conspired with another sales agent and someone with a financial interest in SafeSpeed to pay bribes to a relative of an Oak Lawn village trustee, in exchange for influencing that trustee to help approve the installation of additional cameras.
According to the indictment, they agreed to pay the relative $4,000 in weekly installments of $500, concealing them as payments from a separate company.
In a phone call on May 25, 2017, Doherty told his fellow sales agent he would make the payments to the trustee’s relatives “if it’s going to get us the job,” according to the charges.
“I’ll just pay it. Just make sure we get the, make sure we get the f***ing thing, the contract,” Doherty said, according to the indictment.
Doherty’s arraignment hearing has not yet been scheduled.
In a statement Friday afternoon, Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury said she has ordered an internal investigation as a result of the charges against Doherty.
“We, like the rest of the residents of the Village of Oak Lawn, just now learned of the alleged involvement of an Oak Lawn Trustee in SafeSpeed’s unsuccessful attempt to increase the number of red-light cameras throughout the Village. Prior to reading today’s indictment of SafeSpeed’s representative, Patrick Doherty, the Village was unaware of the existence of any investigations involving one of its officials, nor do we know the identity of the Trustee referenced,” she wrote. “We are shocked and appalled by what’s being reported as the alleged actions strike at the very core of the public’s trust in government-they cannot and will not be tolerated.”
The charges against Doherty come about two weeks after former Illinois State Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to taking $70,000 in bribes to act as a “protector” for red light camera company SafeSpeed. Sandoval said he agreed to take bribes in exchange for blocking proposed legislation to ban red light cameras.
Federal agents raided Sandoval’s home and offices last September, four months before he was charged. According to a search warrant from those raids, federal investigators are casting a wide net in an ongoing corruption probe. The warrant revealed the FBI was seeking evidence related to a vast array of subjects — including Tobolski and SafeSpeed. Others named in the warrant included ComEd; businessman Michael Vondra; video gambling company Gold Rush Gaming; several unnamed Illinois Department of Transportation officials; and several asphalt, concrete, and construction companies.