Well, Well, Well

by Dave Schuler on February 8, 2013

Do you remember how I wondered whose brother-in-law was in the camera business when Chicago put in its stoplight cameras? Apparently, I wasn’t that far from the mark:

The chairman of the Australian company behind Chicago’s red-light program resigned this week and trading in the company’s stock was suspended amid an intensifying investigation into allegations of corruption in its Chicago contract.

Redflex Holdings Ltd. announced the extraordinary actions just days after board members were briefed by an outside legal team hired to examine ties between the company’s U.S. subsidiary and the city official who oversaw its contract, a relationship first disclosed in October by the Tribune.

In a brief statement Thursday to the newspaper, the company also revealed for the first time that it is sharing information with law enforcement authorities.

The internal probe found that company executives systematically courted former city transportation official John Bills with thousands of dollars in free trips to the Super Bowl and other sporting events, sources familiar with the investigation told the Tribune. The company also hid the extent of the improper relationship from City Hall after the newspaper’s reporting last year forced Redflex to partially reveal its ties to Bills, sources said.

Now, I realize that practically nothing gets done in Chicago without clout. But the harder the internal sales job the more obvious it is that somebody is getting something for it.

One of the arguments advanced in favor of paying, er, civil servants handsomely is that it reduces the incentives for corruption. I think that notion reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of avarice. One of reasons that it’s one of the Seven Deadly Sins is that it has no bounds.

Basically, I think we should do the opposite—make them bid for their jobs, as waiters in some top New York restaurants do.

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