Yesterday a jury found former Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez, the highest-ranking City Hall official to be accused of corrupt hiring practices in the ongoing federal investigation, guilty of mail fraud:
The jury determined Sanchez was guilty of four of the seven counts of mail fraud he faced at his federal trial. His alleged right-hand man, Aaron Delvalle, also was found guilty of lying to a grand jury about the corrupt hiring system.
But the case extended well beyond a set of simple accusations against Sanchez, the only former member of Mayor Richard Daley’s cabinet convicted in the federal hiring investigation. In presenting their case, federal prosecutors delved deeply into how city hiring was corrupted to maintain and enhance the mayor’s control over local politics, particularly in Chicago’s growing Latino communities.
The sad thing isn’t that there is corruption in Chicago politics. Everybody knows that. Anyone in Chicago with an eye even half-open knows at least secondhand of an instance. The sad thing isn’t that yet another City Hall official has been convicted of crimes in a corruption investigation.
The sad thing is that Mr. Sanchez still doesn’t understand what he did wrong.
Leaving the courthouse, Sanchez was defiant. “I just did my job the way I was supposed to do it,” said Sanchez, insisting he was just making recommendations to try to ensure that the city’s workforce was representative of its diverse population. “I guess it’s a federal crime.”
Corruption isn’t a perversion of the system here. It is the system.
In not understanding what he’s done wrong Mr. Sanchez isn’t alone:
After the verdicts were announced, Daley repeated his long-held assertion that he had done nothing wrong. “I never have or ever will support any activity that is illegal,” the mayor said in a statement.
Evidence in the trial linked Daley’s political strategists—including his brother William Daley—to the creation and rise of HDO. And witnesses said it all began before Daley even became mayor, as he waged his first successful campaign for the office some 20 years ago.
According to one prosecution witness, top Daley strategist Timothy Degnan met with Sanchez and promised city jobs in exchange for the support of Latino activists from Sanchez’s Southeast Side power base in the 1989 mayoral election. Another former HDO leader told jurors that Degnan and William Daley met with him to seek the support of North Side Hispanics who eventually formed one arm of HDO.
Honestly, it’s a situation of which I despair. Anybody with a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected to anything is part of the same system and has a vested interest in it.