May 5, 2005
Mayor Richard Daley is an extremely complex man. He's been Mayor Little Big Man, Mayor Fredo, Mayor Idunno, Mayor Details, Mayor Fedheimers and Mayor Queeg.
I'd hoped he was finally through demonstrating how many minds can fit into his skull.
But a fascinating new personality emerged Wednesday during his news conference on federal corruption investigations at City Hall.
Behold. He's now the corruption fighting Mayor Junior G-Man.
"At this time, there's an ongoing investigation, and for me to comment, it would jeopardize the investigation," he said, continuing his administration's theme that he's helping to crack the case.
"It's very hard. I can't be answering all these questions, because much of it, I don't know about it," he said, straight-faced but chattering like some mad magpie. "I don't know any specific knowledge. And that's fair, I mean, you have to be fair to me, and I have to be fair to you. I've answered a lot of your questions. And sometimes I can't answer them. I don't have the facts, and I've said that."
After an opening statement about how he's working with the feds and how much he wants corruption to be rooted out--sounding eerily similar to the pre-indicted former Gov. George Ryan--it was time for questions. (You may read the entire transcript of the Q&A session at chicagotribune.com/kass.)
I asked the first question about the Hired Truck scandal, and the administrator of the program, the indicted Angelo Torres, who was first to be blamed when Daley allies wanted to spin the scandal as merely a Latino political problem.
The question was asked about 15 months ago, and it's been asked periodically since then. If he answered it Wednesday, it would put to rest the nagging perception that he's hiding something.
Mayor Daley, who promoted Angelo Torres?
"Well, that question has been asked a number of times. I've looked into it. Uh, ah, a number of names have come up. I'll be very frank, it would be unfair to name several names. At this time the U.S. attorneys [sic] are looking into it. I'll be frank. You know, a lot of people mention four or five or six or seven different names, and no one's claiming it."
Other reporters chimed in.
But don't you know?
"No, I don't."
How could you not?
"I just don't know," he said.
After 15 months?
"I just, I just don't know. I just don't know, John."
Why would it be unfair to name the four or five names (who approved Torres)?
"Because no one has taken credit for it. A-heh-heh-heh-heh," Daley cackled. No one else laughed. "And the U.S. attorneys [sic] are looking into it now."
Did you sponsor him?
"No, I didn't. No," he said.
So there you have it. Daley knows, but Daley doesn't know. There are names, but he can't repeat them, because federal authorities asked him not to, since he's Mayor Junior G-Man, a spin that had investigators at the federal building in tears as they rolled on the floor, laughing.
What probably happened is that bored City Hall officials were practicing their signatures, hoping to have them analyzed for quirky multiple personality traits, when they accidentally scribbled on the form that put Torres in charge of the Hired Truck program. Torres then began accepting bribes while rewarding Daley allies, and Bridgeport and Outfit-connected trucking companies, and nobody knew, especially not Time Magazine's Mayor of the Universe.
It's all a coincidence, right mare?
Then another reporter asked if Chicagoans might get the idea that Daley is not in control.
"I'm in control!" he insisted, although we didn't see him twisting his Super Secret Decoder Ring.
Here's how bad it is. The mayor of Chicago has to declare he's in control, thereby demonstrating that he's lost it.
Daley was also asked about Donny Tomczak, his former Water Department boss and Bridgeport political operative who was indicted in the Hired Truck scandal. Tomczak has also been charged with using city workers to muscle pro-Daley candidates into office, at the behest of as-yet unnamed city officials.
Tomczak's underling and bagman, Gerald Wesolowski, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the feds. Tomczak may cooperate soon. Political decisions about which candidates to back were made only by the mayor and his political strategists.
So Daley was asked who gave the marching orders to Tomczak to work on pro-Daley campaigns. He pondered a bit.
"Well, I don't know," Mayor Junior G-man said. "I don't know who gave the marching orders to anything."
Mayor Junior G-Man doesn't sound quite ready to testify in federal court and brag about how he cracked the case. But that's not to say he won't be ready to testify some day. We'll wait.
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