Written by Adam Andrzejewski
In rural Iroquois County, the citizens find out that all corruption is local
An IT forensic audit of government computers allegedly turns up porn, theft of services, bid rigging, campaigning, running personal businesses, political fundraising, surfing sports websites, and thousands of Facebook posts, dating and shopping website hits.
It starts with a small felony — a $340 donation from a government entity to a political committee, or a mayor paying for his continuing legal education with his city credit card. It ends with two former governors in jail and three federal investigations of the current governor based upon a corrupt sense of self-entitlement.
If you don’t fix the broken window, the whole house, from foundation to shingle, rots to the core. That’s the story of Illinois.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Broken Windows Theory, it debuted in a1982 essay in the Atlantic Monthly. The theory suggests that decline to lawlessness begins when a community tolerates minor violations of public order — vandalism of abandoned structures, turnstyle jumpers and the like — and that cracking down on small offenses discourages more serious crimes.
It’s time to aggressively apply that theory to Illinois’ public servants. It is time to crack down on the small stuff, not only looking into behaviors in the statewide offices and agencies, but burrowing down to the township and municipal level, where the mindset of waste, greed and insider dealing sets in.
Recently in Forbes, I profiled Rod Copas, the Iroquois County Board Chairman (a county located 100 miles south of Chicago in mid-central Illinois), and the IT forensic audit he spearheaded. It’s an example of effectively applying “Broken Windows.” Here are only a few examples of Copas’ impact…
An analysis of four employee computers by Garrett Discovery Inc. in the health department allegedly turned up hundreds of downloaded porn images, 3,000 hits on shopping websites,1,400 hits on dating websites, and 7,600 social media- Facebook posts/comments.
The analysis of a public credit card for private use, bid rigging, running personal businesses, campaigning, and political fundraising, not to mention Google searches for grossly inappropriate and explicit terms and 10,000 Google searches for key words such as cars, makeup, apartments, sports, Disney and clothes.
All this was discovered after Copas led the charge to disband the department for the allegedly larger crimes such as $4 million in federal flood grant fraud, public credit cards used for private beer and gasoline purchases and substantial gift card employee compensation that circumvented payroll taxes.
What Copas uncovered goes on in some form in many of Illinois’ 6,900-plus government entities. Yet Attorney General Lisa Madigan prosecuted only 15 public corruption cases from 2002-2011, despite a staff of 727 employees.
Illinois’ 102 state’s attorneys can do better as well. Yet few of them seem interested in prosecuting public corruption, even though it is politically popular.
Sadly, the township/county political apparatus makes it difficult for a state’s attorney to prosecute the people whose political organizations put them in their seat. This is why we see so little prosecution of minor infractions, and this is how the mindset of corruption — legal and illegal — creeps in.
Some people use the excuse that “everybody does it” when lamenting Illinois’ brand of government malfeasance. It’s time to confront this mindset head-on.
To reverse the rapid decline of this state, we must start prosecuting these so-called minor infractions. We must call them the morally toxic destroyers of trust and integrity that they are. Wrong-doers need to feel the bite of losing jobs and benefits.
The solution is for the legislature to dramatically expand adversarial forensic audits to specifically target corrupt practices and claw-back taxpayer dollars. Independent auditors need robust tools to go further than the pro-forma annual auditing that missed the decades-long embezzlement scheme that cost Dixon taxpayers $53 million.
We must fix the “broken windows” of Illinois corruption. Either that, or we can continue to watch talented people and dynamic companies leave this once admired state.
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