The end of the racketeering lawsuit against East Chicago's former Robert Pastrick administration brings welcome cash to the city, and it finds the city in a new era.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller handed the city more than $331,000 collected from former Mayor Robert Pastrick and his co-defendants in the civil lawsuit over the 1999 "concrete for votes" spending spree that left the city on the verge of bankruptcy. East Chicago required a state bailout to keep it solvent.
Pastrick himself went bankrupt after losing the civil suit. The federal bankruptcy court judge ruled his assets could not be shielded from this debt.
Zoeller said the bankruptcy court ruling was as historic as then-Attorney General Steve Carter's 2004 lawsuit applying the federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization statute against government officials.
Mayor Anthony Copeland said the money would be used to upgrade parks throughout the city. How appropriate. That's the sort of thing the money should have been used for in the first place, instead of fueling the lust for political power.
It has taken a long time to bring about, but East Chicago is in a new era.
The city has joined the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission, which brings with it ethics training for city employees.
Other steps the city has taken include a nepotism law that exceeds state requirements.
"We're moving from the darkness into the light," Copeland said.
The clear expectation now is that everyone who works for the city will work on the city's behalf, not their own.
It is up to co-workers and citizens to report instances where this isn't happening so the city doesn't slip back into past ways of doing things.
It will take time, perhaps a generation, to erase the stain on East Chicago's reputation, but the scrubbing has begun.