#82 Oct 7, 2013
Friend of Cicero town president indicted on tax evasion charges
BY JON SEIDEL AND KIM JANSSEN
Indictment of George Hunter
Updated: October 7, 2013 6:40PM
The feds are going after a buddy of Cicero Town President Larry Dominick for allegedly cheating on his taxes.
But a lawyer for Dominick’s freshly indicted pal — George Hunter of Stickney — said it’s all payback.
“These were retaliatory charges for Mr. Hunter not cooperating with the FBI and the government against Larry Dominick,” attorney Michael Schmiege told the Chicago Sun-Times after his client pleaded not guilty in front of U.S. Judge Amy St. Eve.
The charges come more than a year after records show the town of Cicero received a federal grand jury subpoena for records of Hunter’s business dealings there, suggesting the investigation involving the western suburb is heating up.
Hunter, 59, illegally dodged federal taxes of more than $400,000 in 2007 and 2008, according to the indictment unsealed on Monday. He is free on bail until his next hearing on Nov. 5.
The taxes were allegedly owed by his business, Superior Sewer Solution, which received more than $1.8 million in work from Cicero without a contract and without submitting a bid, the Sun-Times revealed in 2011.
The indictment alleges Hunter wrote numerous checks to an “Individual A” and “Individual B” for nearly $500,000 in 2007 and 2008, and at times he accepted cash back from both of them.
It also alleges Hunter paid his workers in cash and told them not to report their earnings to the IRS, and that he failed to file a tax return in 2008, when he made $655,000.
Dominick’s name did not come up during Hunter’s brief court appearance Monday morning. But Dominick’s political opponents have repeatedly alleged the town president was a partner in Hunter’s business.
They tried unsuccessfully to have him thrown off the ballot prior to his re-election earlier this year, claiming Superior Sewer Solution owes the town for years of business licenses.
Dominick has previously denied he has any business dealings with Hunter. The town’s spokesman did not reply to messages seeking comment on Dominick’s behalf Monday. Schmiege, meanwhile, said “to the best of my knowledge” Dominick is neither “Individual A” nor “Individual B.”
Schmiege said Hunter has never cooperated against Dominick and has never been involved with anything illegal with Dominick. But he said federal investigators wanted to know more about Superior Sewer Solution’s contracts with Cicero from 2005 until 2009.
The Sun-Times has also obtained a copy of a federal grand jury subpoena from July 2012 seeking records of the company’s dealings with Cicero from 2009 until 2011.
Finally, in court depositions for a lawsuit previously filed by one of Dominick’s brothers against the town, several people testified Hunter and Dominick were partners in a sewer business in the 1990s.
While Hunter received the windfall, the plumber bought Dominick’s Stickney home for $100,000 more than the town president paid for it.
#83 Oct 11, 2013
Real decisions and no decisions
Preckwinkle shows what leaders can do. Now where's the legislature?
October 11, 2013
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle demonstrated Thursday what a political leader can do with some grit and determination.
She has made real, credible progress in reviving the once-shameful mess that was Cook County government. Remember the Todd Stroger era? The county is on its way to being a different place.
Preckwinkle gradually eliminated the hated sales tax increase Stroger had imposed. Thursday she released a no-new-taxes-or-fees county budget for 2014.
(Speaking of determination, here's a hat tip to Treasurer Maria Pappas, who has proposed cutting her corporate budget in half — her latest of many sharp spending reductions.)
But Preckwinkle's budget presentation to the Tribune editorial board also contained a warning: She said there's trouble ahead if Illinois does not substantially reform its public employee pension systems.
Most of the focus has been on state pension funds. But Chicago, Cook County and the city's school system also have massive pension obligations, and they're counting on legislators to give them relief.
So grab your pencils and calculators, dear readers. We've got a little math quiz for you: Add up the days between June 19, when legislators established a pension conference committee, and Oct. 22, the start of their fall veto session. What do you get? We'll help: 125 days.
Now take that number and multiply it by $5 million, the amount the state's unfunded pension liability grows each day. What's your answer?
Please, allow us to assist:$625 million. That's how much your liability will have grown by the time lawmakers reconvene in Springfield this month. Add $80 million in debt if they adjourn, again, on Nov. 7 without reform. And then keep adding $5 million each day after that.
They've blown every chance this year. They didn't get a bill on Gov. Pat Quinn's desk by their May 31 adjournment date. They didn't get a bill on his desk by July 9, the next deadline Quinn set.
When Quinn on July 10 vetoed their paychecks, they didn't step up on pension reform. They sued him to get paid.
Will the veto session yield a pension bill? Don't hold your breath.
Lawmakers keep telling everyone to be patient, that pension reform is terribly tricky, terribly difficult. Just excruciating.
But look around. While the General Assembly has stalled, Illinois' credit rating has dropped 13 times. Meanwhile, many other states have enacted reforms.
Last year, 10 states made major changes to public employee retirement plans, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. States increased employee contributions, raised retirement ages, reduced cost-of-living adjustments, created new 401(k)-style options — you name it. Reforms vary state to state. But the goal is consistent: to save dangerously underfunded systems.
Illinois changed pension benefits for new workers in 2009. But lawmakers have not revised the system for existing employees. Those employees — teachers outside Chicago, university employees, state workers, judges and General Assembly members — depend on a pension system that in total is only 39 percent funded. Compare that to the state of New York where pensions are fully funded and lawmakers still passed pension reform last year to reduce the state's future obligations. How wise and responsible of them.
Some states, Illinois included, face the hurdle of constitutional language that restricts changes in public pensions. But they are at least taking on the challenge.
Michigan's constitution says pensions "shall be a contractual obligation thereof which shall not be diminished or impaired thereby." Michigan eliminated traditional defined benefit pensions for new hires in 1997. Michigan recently passed a law requiring workers who remain in defined benefit plans to pay more of each paycheck toward their plans or take a penalty.
#84 Oct 11, 2013
Michigan's constitution says pensions "shall be a contractual obligation thereof which shall not be diminished or impaired thereby." Michigan eliminated traditional defined benefit pensions for new hires in 1997. Michigan recently passed a law requiring workers who remain in defined benefit plans to pay more of each paycheck toward their plans or take a penalty. Michigan also limited the amount the state would pay toward retiree health care. An appeals court struck down parts of the law. Michigan is appealing to its Supreme Court.
Kentucky's constitution says retirement benefits are an "inviolable contract" and shall not be subject to reduction or impairment. Yet that state recently passed a bill that controls cost-of-living adjustments for existing workers and moves new workers into more affordable, hybrid retirement plans.
Had Illinois legislators passed aggressive pension reforms three, four, five years ago, our courts could have ruled by now on any challenges. We would know where we stand. We might actually be realizing pension ... wait for it ... savings.
Instead, the Illinois pension conference committee established in June has yet to produce a bill. The committee has generated only an outline of possible changes. Cost-of-living increases for retirees would be frozen for one to five years, depending on the age of the employee. The rate of growth in the COLA would be curbed, as long as inflation isn't too high. Employees would pay 1 percentage point less toward their pensions. There would be a cap on the salary used to calculate a pension.
Supporters say this would save $139 billion over 30 years. But that still would leave a lot of potential savings on the table.
Republicans say they want more savings —raise the retirement age, require workers to pay more toward their benefits, create a 401(k)-style option.
Democrats say they need Republican votes to pass a reform bill. OK, then listen to what Republicans suggest. Make this bill stronger. Make it more favorable to taxpayers.
Make it better. And make it fast. There should be a bill ready for a vote when lawmakers go to Springfield on Oct. 22.
Yet there's talk of waiting until January. Or until after the March primary. Pencils and calculators, taxpayers. At $5 million a day, this is costing you.
#85 Oct 25, 2013
He needs to remember who he is working for. A decent Mayor would give his citizens a forum to express their views and whether or not he agrees, be an agent for positive change. This is one of the reasons that this Community has trouble moving forward. Suppress free speech to 3 minutes, don't allow an open exchange of ideas, sounds pathetic to me.
#86 Oct 25, 2013
His term over next election
#87 Oct 25, 2013
Vargas is just keeping the seat warm until Mayor Rita seats 7 more alderman in the next election and then his preferred candidate will become Mayor.
#88 Oct 25, 2013
Will it be pro-tem Hawley or are they just playing him to get them votes and funds?
#89 Oct 25, 2013
Congratulations to Mayor Vargas on being awarded Anita Alvarez' El Humanitario Award honoring the accomplishments and service to the community of outstanding Hispanic American attorneys, judges and dedicated citizens. He received the award at a very nice ceremony at the National Museum of Mexican Art on Wednesday, October 9th. Congratulations!
#90 Oct 25, 2013
Obama received a Nobel peace prize that he didn't deserve too. What's your point?
#91 Oct 25, 2013
When does he receive his award for degrading Alderwomen at council meetings?
#92 Oct 25, 2013
What humanitarian deeds has he done?
#93 Oct 25, 2013
A meaningless award from Alvarez given to her friend, Vargas
#94 Oct 25, 2013
Let me think! Didn't want my veteran neighbor, who is unable to walk to participate in the July 4th parade. Because as he put it, " it is only a walking parade." Real humanitarian - NOT!
#95 Oct 25, 2013
If she only knew how he dishonors women!
#96 Oct 25, 2013
Oh, and let's not forget how he will look you straight in the face and lie to your face. Right Mr. Humanitarian?
#97 Oct 25, 2013
Politicians and lawyers are often untruthful, and rewarded for being great liars.
#98 Oct 25, 2013
That is until they go to jail.......
#99 Oct 26, 2013
Mayor Vargas has a law degree and should know better.
#100 Oct 26, 2013
Meaningful research is not done as it should be for any of the ridiculous roll out projects. Useful basic information is not provided to residents and the community.
The Vargas administration does not make sound decisions in the best interest of the municipality.
#101 Oct 26, 2013
Ideally he wanted Fred but the pool party might be too big of an obstacle to overcome so I say Brother John Rita will be the next Mayor.
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