Have you ever noticed that when there is a slow news day, the media takes a painful bite out of East Chicago? That’s in large part because East Chicago is so open to criticism.
At such times, it is useful for public critics to look at events of the day objectively. Let’s take an example.
In the late 1960s, the feds swept in, as they periodically do, to hit not East Chicago, but infinitely more prestigious Hammond.
Hammond Mayor Joseph E. Klen and four other public officials, past and present, were indicted by federal grand juries on charges of receiving kickbacks for construction of a natural gas pipeline. Related indictments in Omaha netted two executives of the companies and a permanent permit engineer for the Cook County department of highways.
The money was paid, allegedly, from a fund in a bank at Salem in Marion County. The fund was to be used to pay off public officials who approved permits needed for construction of the pipeline.
Klen, mayor of Hammond since 1968, received $9,500 in November, 1969. Edward C. Dowling, Klen’s predecessor, raked in $8,500. Then good ole John B. Nicosia, former mayor of East Chicago, received $14,500.
Nicosia, in his own right, was a story and a half. He had been the best doctor in town, by a country mile. When I got racked up playing basketball in an industrial league and had to be put to sleep before anyone could work on me, Nicosia ran the process.
When I needed to gain weight to compete at the University of Colorado, he was able to add weight to my stingy bones when no one else could. The problem is that I never stopped gaining weight so that, today, all these years later, my biggest health problem is weight, which is relentless.
East Chicago City Controller George C. Lamb was accused of receiving $13,000 with the late James L. Bent, who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator, if that isn’t an oxymoron. Herman Davis, a former village trustee in Robbins, Ill. who served as a drivers’ license examiner for Secretary of State John W. Lewis, took $4,200.
Gabriel Ditore, 48, of 827 S. Bishop St., a permit engineer with the Cook County department of highways, took $1,200. The late John J. Cavanagh, also a permit engineer with the highway department, was named as an unindicted co-conspirator and was charged with having received a $9,100 kickback.
The gas companies named in the indictments were Northern Natural Gas Company of Omaha and two of its subsidiaries, Northern Gas Products Company and Hydro-Carbon Transportation Inc. Executives of these companies were Delbert W. Calvert of Tulsa, who once headed the diversification division of Northern Natural Gas, and James C. Smith, vice president of engineering for Hydro-Carbon Transportation.
Calvert and Smith gave $23,393.50 to the Salem engineering firm of Rochester, Goodell, Moldovan & Spain, which was hired by the gas companies to do engineering studies for the pipeline. And so on.
Mayor Dowling, who was defeated for a fourth term in 1967 by Klen, called his indictment totally unfounded. Then the repercussions began. The investments and sub investments and sub, sub investments would make a computer give up numbers.