It’s no secret that Chicago is a city infamous for its culture of corruption. Often overlooked, however, are the widespread unethical practices that have been populating the metropolitan area’s suburbs since the 1970s. A new report from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC),“Green Grass and Graft: Corruption in the Suburbs,” illustrates a staggering number of over 100 public officials in more than 60 suburbs in Cook and surrounding counties who have been involved in public corruption in just the past two decades. The report highlights cases of corruption-related convictions in the suburbs that fall within six categories:
1. Public officials with ties to organized crime
3. Police officers aiding or extorting criminals
4. Kickbacks and bribes to officials and administrators
5. Large development projects
6. Stealing of funds by leaders of school districts and special purpose districts
As a long-term solution to ending suburban corruption, the report suggests the creation of a Suburban Inspector General to oversee the suburbs and investigate illegal or unethical acts. The creation of such an office would further deter public officials from participating in corrupt acts and would help publicize the counties’ corruption problems.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the proposal to create an inspector general for the suburbs was met with skepticism and mixed reactions among Illinois officeholders and taxpayer watchdogs. Gov. Quinn, however, expressed favor for the idea.
“Political corruption is commonly thought to be the exclusive purview of the big, bad city,” explains report co-author Dick Simpson, UIC professor and head of political science. “But we have found that towns and villages in the suburban ring are copying Chicago’s corruption playbook. Suburbanites must recognize the problem and demand reforms by both local and state governments.”
Read the UIC press release here.