2 Blue Island brothers in line for 6 ...

2 Blue Island brothers in line for 6 government pensions

There are 58 comments on the Chicago Sun-Times story from Nov 3, 2013, titled 2 Blue Island brothers in line for 6 government pensions. In it, Chicago Sun-Times reports that:

Since taking office in May, new Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas has given two newly created city jobs to campaign supporters and handed no-bid contracts to political allies.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Chicago Sun-Times.

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Powerful

Maywood, IL

#1 Nov 4, 2013
Now that is powerful!
Bringing Down the Town

Maywood, IL

#2 Nov 4, 2013
New Blue Island mayor
gives jobs, deals to insiders

Since taking office in May, new Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas has given two newly created city jobs to campaign supporters and handed no-bid contracts to political allies.

Vargas, a former Blue Island alderman, appointed campaign contributor John Rita Jr. as director of public safety, a new post that pays $90,000 a year to oversee the south suburb’s police and fire departments. Rita and his brother, state Rep. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island), were unpaid campaign advisers to Vargas, who ran as a member of the new Blue Island Independent Party with the backing of the Rita brothers.

Other moves under Vargas include:

◆ Hiring Mesirow Financial to procure new health insurance coverage for municipal employees through Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois. Mesirow employs Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s son Andrew Madigan, who worked with Blue Island officials on the no-bid deal. Approved Aug. 29, it will cost the city $2.3 million a year. Robert Rita, a politcal ally of the House speaker, says he vouched for Mesirow to city officials. The firm’s commission was $39,000, according to City Clerk Randy Heuser.

◆ Hiring Vargas campaign volunteer Don Marchbanks as director of the Blue Island Emergency Management Agency, which handles traffic and crowd control at public events. This previously was an unpaid position. Marchbanks was given a $12,000-a-year salary.

◆ Awarded a no-bid contract to a Chicago law firm that employs state Rep. Chris Welch (D-Westchester) and Welch’s wife, ShawnTe Raines, who was named Blue Island’s city attorney after Vargas took office. Raines is to be paid $185 an hour, billing the city as an independent contractor.

“I’m not here to win a popularity contest,” says Vargas.“I’m here to bring change to this town.”
Vargas and the BIIPS

Maywood, IL

#3 Nov 4, 2013
Bringing Down the Town wrote:
New Blue Island mayor
gives jobs, deals to insiders
Since taking office in May, new Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas has given two newly created city jobs to campaign supporters and handed no-bid contracts to political allies.
Vargas, a former Blue Island alderman, appointed campaign contributor John Rita Jr. as director of public safety, a new post that pays $90,000 a year to oversee the south suburb’s police and fire departments. Rita and his brother, state Rep. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island), were unpaid campaign advisers to Vargas, who ran as a member of the new Blue Island Independent Party with the backing of the Rita brothers.
Other moves under Vargas include:
◆ Hiring Mesirow Financial to procure new health insurance coverage for municipal employees through Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois. Mesirow employs Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s son Andrew Madigan, who worked with Blue Island officials on the no-bid deal. Approved Aug. 29, it will cost the city $2.3 million a year. Robert Rita, a politcal ally of the House speaker, says he vouched for Mesirow to city officials. The firm’s commission was $39,000, according to City Clerk Randy Heuser.
◆ Hiring Vargas campaign volunteer Don Marchbanks as director of the Blue Island Emergency Management Agency, which handles traffic and crowd control at public events. This previously was an unpaid position. Marchbanks was given a $12,000-a-year salary.
◆ Awarded a no-bid contract to a Chicago law firm that employs state Rep. Chris Welch (D-Westchester) and Welch’s wife, ShawnTe Raines, who was named Blue Island’s city attorney after Vargas took office. Raines is to be paid $185 an hour, billing the city as an independent contractor.
“I’m not here to win a popularity contest,” says Vargas.“I’m here to bring change to this town.”
They just didn't think they would get caught!
CalTownship Connection

Maywood, IL

#4 Nov 4, 2013
Vargas and the BIIPS wrote:
<quoted text>
They just didn't think they would get caught!
Pouring more money into Conflict of Interest pockets.
Marc Perez

Chicago, IL

#5 Nov 4, 2013
The next issue will read about the new appointed alderman Ken Pittman as well as all the new department heads .
Ghost town

Midlothian, IL

#6 Nov 4, 2013
Marc Perez wrote:
The next issue will read about the new appointed alderman Ken Pittman as well as all the new department heads .
Hmm, no sight nor sound of anyone at the state rep or township office today.
Blue Island

Maywood, IL

#7 Nov 5, 2013
Vargas and the BIIPS wrote:
<quoted text>
They just didn't think they would get caught!
Genova (an attorney and mayor) was sentenced to five years in federal prison on charges that he accepted $125,000 in kickbacks and used city workers — on city time — to help his political campaigns.
The Scandal Grows

Maywood, IL

#8 Nov 5, 2013
A petition review reveals circulators were city employees most likely gathering signatures during work hours, campaign donations from city workers, and 99% of city workers at the polls on election day, during regular work hours (taxpayer paid time).
Wanda

Blue Island, IL

#9 Nov 5, 2013
What about the city workers handing out palm cards 50 ft from the doors of the polling stations. I felt like i would be arrested if i said i was not voting for the BIIPS.
I miss Mario

Blue Island, IL

#10 Nov 5, 2013
The Scandal Grows wrote:
A petition review reveals circulators were city employees most likely gathering signatures during work hours, campaign donations from city workers, and 99% of city workers at the polls on election day, during regular work hours (taxpayer paid time).
Ask our favorite poster where he was on Election Day? Not at work.
I miss Mario

Blue Island, IL

#11 Nov 5, 2013
Ghost town wrote:
<quoted text>Hmm, no sight nor sound of anyone at the state rep or township office today.
What?
Didn't the Sun Times state that Bobby was there being paid a full time salary?
I wish I had yesterday off with pay.
frustrated in Blue Island

Chicago, IL

#12 Nov 5, 2013
Wanda wrote:
What about the city workers handing out palm cards 50 ft from the doors of the polling stations. I felt like i would be arrested if i said i was not voting for the BIIPS.
Yeah it was nice to see Good old Deputy Chief Mike Cornell working the polls. Good to see politics kept out of the police department
Wanda

Blue Island, IL

#13 Nov 5, 2013
frustrated in Blue Island wrote:
<quoted text>
Yeah it was nice to see Good old Deputy Chief Mike Cornell working the polls. Good to see politics kept out of the police department
What an asskisser!
CdiPG

United States

#14 Nov 5, 2013
The Scandal Grows wrote:
A petition review reveals circulators were city employees most likely gathering signatures during work hours, campaign donations from city workers, and 99% of city workers at the polls on election day, during regular work hours (taxpayer paid time).
So out of the like 185 or so employees 183 of them were working polling places on Election Day? Nice try..... Sounds like somebody is still butt hurt over how embarrassingly bad they were beaten that day. Cough Allan Cough Carol. Oh but what about the "volunteers" or more like the people you forced to work on your campaign or threatened to get them kicked out of Mother of Sorrows? What a very Christian and ethical thing to do. You two are so righteous and ethical. YEAH RIGHT!!
Luckily the lies and bullshit you two spew is not taken seriously and thank The Lord neither of you were elected or it would be a literal hell on earth for every citizen in Blue Island.
The truth

Blue Island, IL

#15 Nov 5, 2013
CdiPG wrote:
<quoted text>
So out of the like 185 or so employees 183 of them were working polling places on Election Day? Nice try..... Sounds like somebody is still butt hurt over how embarrassingly bad they were beaten that day. Cough Allan Cough Carol. Oh but what about the "volunteers" or more like the people you forced to work on your campaign or threatened to get them kicked out of Mother of Sorrows? What a very Christian and ethical thing to do. You two are so righteous and ethical. YEAH RIGHT!!
Luckily the lies and bullshit you two spew is not taken seriously and thank The Lord neither of you were elected or it would be a literal hell on earth for every citizen in Blue Island.
Do you live in a cave? Anyone would have been better than what we have running our city's government at the moment. While not a fan of any of the mayoral candidates last election, this group has caused serious damage to our city's reputation. Stay informed and participate in the council meetings. You will be shocked at the decisions being made by these guys.
Bob

Elmhurst, IL

#16 Nov 5, 2013
CdiPG wrote:
<quoted text>
So out of the like 185 or so employees 183 of them were working polling places on Election Day? Nice try..... Sounds like somebody is still butt hurt over how embarrassingly bad they were beaten that day. Cough Allan Cough Carol. Oh but what about the "volunteers" or more like the people you forced to work on your campaign or threatened to get them kicked out of Mother of Sorrows? What a very Christian and ethical thing to do. You two are so righteous and ethical. YEAH RIGHT!!
Luckily the lies and bullshit you two spew is not taken seriously and thank The Lord neither of you were elected or it would be a literal hell on earth for every citizen in Blue Island.
330 employees and their family members.
Patronage Island

United States

#17 Nov 5, 2013
November 4, 2013 09:57 AM
Patronage Island
The new mayor of cash-strapped Blue Island pledged reform, so why are politically connected companies and campaign supporters landing contracts and jobs?
By Andrew Schroedter/BGA
Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas / Credit: Brett Roseman, Sun-Times Media
Commentary
A version of this article appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times.
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The green has been flowing in Blue Island under new Mayor Domingo Vargas.
Ever since taking office in May amid a pledge of reform and stabilizing government finances, Vargas and his political allies have steered municipal jobs and no-bid contracts to campaign supporters and other insiders – some with ties to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and other state lawmakers, the Better Government Association has found.
Vargas says the decisions were based on merit, not clout or political gain, as he works to improve the city’s gloomy financial picture. What’s more, he says he doesn’t mind if his choices come under fire.
"I’m not here to win a popularity contest," says Vargas, formerly a Blue Island alderman. "I’m here to bring change to this town."
Among the "changes" the BGA has found, Vargas and city officials:
•Named John Rita Jr. director of public safety, a newly created post that pays $90,000 a year and oversees the police and fire departments. Rita, a former official with the Cook County sheriff’s office, donated $1,000 last March to a Vargas-linked political committee. Rita and his brother, state Rep. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island), worked as unpaid advisors on Vargas’ mayoral campaign.
•Hired Mesirow Financial to procure new health insurance coverage for its employees. The Chicago firm employs Madigan’s son, Andrew Madigan, who was involved in securing the business from Blue Island. The Mesirow deal was not competitively bid. Robert Rita and the elder Madigan are political allies.
•Hired Vargas campaign volunteer Don Marchbanks as director of the Blue Island Emergency Management Agency, which handles traffic and crowd control at public events. Until Vargas took office it was an unpaid position; Marchbanks was given a $12,000-a-year salary.
•Awarded a no-bid contract to a Chicago law firm that employs a legislative colleague of Robert Rita, state Rep. Chris Welch (D-Westchester). Welch’s wife, ShawnTe Raines, also is an attorney at the firm, and she was named Blue Island’s city attorney after Vargas won office.
Vargas, City Clerk Randy Heuser and eight other candidates formed a political slate, called the Blue Island Independent Party, that ran in last April’s election with the backing of the Rita brothers. All but one prevailed.
Vargas says the candidates inherited a prickly financial situation. The city, already saddled with unfunded pension liabilities of $40.3 million, has seen annual expenses soar 22 percent to $26.3 million since 2010. Meanwhile, revenues have remained relatively flat, putting pressure on city officials to cut costs. Saving money was the reason the city recently picked a new health insurance plan for 183 current and former municipal employees and their families, Heuser says.
But the BGA found the new deal, which took effect Oct. 1, may not deliver immediate savings.
Patronage Island

United States

#18 Nov 5, 2013
Blue Island had been self-insured, and last fiscal year its health care costs totaled $2.1 million, or $200,000 less than what the city will pay under the new deal.
Heuser called that an anomaly and says, "We happened to have a good claim year. But who wants to gamble?" In 2011 and 2012 the city’s health care costs totaled $2.9 million and $2.7 million respectively, he says.
The new contract is with health insurance giant BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois. Mesirow was Blue Island’s broker, essentially acting as a middleman between the city and the insurer. Mesirow’s commission is $39,000, Heuser says.
On Aug. 29, the city council approved the contract with BlueCross BlueShield.
The vote culminated a process that began shortly after the election when city officials, at Heuser’s suggestion, privately decided to switch insurance.
The city could have gone through a competitive bidding process to hire a broker. But instead, Heuser this summer contacted Mesirow’s Andrew Madigan, the son of the powerful Illinois House speaker.
The scenario follows a pattern of Chicago-area towns with direct or indirect ties to the elder Madigan doing business with his son and Mesirow.
In this case, Michael Madigan and Robert Rita are political allies and Robert Rita has strong ties to Blue Island. Political committees controlled by Michael Madigan have donated more than $73,000 to Robert Rita’s campaign funds since 2004, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Andrew Madigan didn’t return calls. A spokesman for Speaker Madigan had no comment.
Robert Rita says he knows Andrew Madigan and even told city officials "Mesirow is a good company." But he denies having lobbied Blue Island to use the firm.
"I care about this town," Robert Rita says. "I want to make sure it’s going in the right direction." But, "I have no involvement in the day-to-day operations."
This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Andrew Schroedter
Cloud of Suspicion

Maywood, IL

#19 Nov 6, 2013
For all of the years Vargas has been in office he has failed to care for the people and the city of Blue Island. This is only further evidence of more of the same.
Cujo

Leask, Canada

#20 Nov 6, 2013
As a legislator, Robert Rita, 44, made $74,569 last year. He is also Calumet Township supervisor, making $67,000 a year after a 23 percent pay raise he got in June.

How can these public servant jobs warrant full time salaries, if one person can do both jobs? And I am a union supporter, for the most part.

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