Republican Cook County Board Commissioner Sean Morrison believes a scandal involving a board colleague accused of flexing his political muscle in a parking ticket incident could have far-reaching consequences.
“The commissioner responsible for this abuse of authority has committed a grave disservice to the Cook County Board,” Morrison posted on Twitter. “This alleged behavior further perpetuates an image of a county government fraught with influence peddling and corruption which I find reprehensible.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, the controversy stems from an unnamed Cook County commissioner pushing Forest Preserve police to rescind a $250 parking ticket written for one of his associates for parking in a disabled-only space.
A subsequent investigation of the incident by county Inspector General Patrick Blanchard’s office found that the pressure allegedly asserted by the commissioner amounted to a violation of a county ordinance designed to keep politics out of employment actions and police related matters. Over time, investigators highlighted not only the actions of the elected official as a violation of that rule, but they also included the lawmaker strong-arming a high-ranking county Forest Preserve officer to arrange a meeting between the commissioner and the officers that issued the ticket to discuss their actions.
As a consequence, Blanchard recommended that the officer involved face “significant disciplinary action” and that new policies for the department are enacted that clearly “discourage political interference in investigations.”
The report also asserted that the ticket should be reissued.
“Political connections and influence must never steer or determine outcomes in law enforcement functions,” Blanchard’s office added in its report. “This is true whether law enforcement is engaged in issuing parking or traffic tickets or investigating serious crimes.”
The findings of the report have now also been forwarded to the county ethics office, which has the authority to probe the allegations and recommend sanctions against the unnamed commissioner, who serves in a dual role on the county and forest preserve boards.