CHICAGO | It’s not every government official who is eager to have law enforcement officials come into his municipality and investigate government activity.
But Dolton Village President Riley Rogers, who is approaching the end of his first month in office, said he wants the help of the Cook County Sheriff’s Police to investigate municipal government in his south suburb to determine if any illegal activity has taken place.
Specifically, Rogers asked the county sheriff to act as an inspector general for Dolton village government. The village president said Friday that in the four weeks since he took his oath of office for a four-year term, many people have approached him with stories about activity by local government officials that sounds questionable to him.
Yet Dolton is a financially struggling village that had to tap into a tax increment finance district in order to be able to make their payroll Friday. So hiring investigators was out, and the Police Department was not set up to handle such issues.
Rogers, whose day job is that of a police investigator with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, said he is aware that the county sheriff has officers trained specifically in conducting investigations of municipal government and corruption.
“Allowing the sheriff to handle this investigation means there will be no expense to the (Dolton) taxpayers because this is what these officers do,” he said.
Cara Smith, a senior adviser for the sheriff’s police, said the county sheriff will accept complaints from people who think they know of improper activity. Forms that people can use to provide information about Dolton to the sheriff will be available at cookcountysheriff.org and vodolton.org.
Or, Smith said people can send emails containing information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smith said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and his staff will take such complaints seriously.
“Illinois is no stranger to corruption, but at the local level it can be more devastating than at the big level because it can be so hard for the local government to bounce back,” she said.
Any investigations arising from such complaints would be taking place simultaneously with an effort by federal officials investigating the circumstances surrounding the mid-2000s renovation of the village-owned Dorchester Senior Center, which was done during the administration of now-deceased Village President William Shaw.
Smith agreed that the issue goes back many years. “We’re talking a long, long time, 10 years or more, maybe many more,” she said.
Rogers would not say what exactly he heard from local residents during the past month, although Smith said complaints heard thus far involve allegations of payroll improprieties and mismanagement within village government agencies.
“The line between neglect and incompetence as opposed to corruption is a challenging one,” Smith said, adding later, “Significant issues will have to be addressed.”