December 8, 2011 11:24 PM
On Personal Time or the Taxpayers' Dime?
The BGA and FOX Chicago News follow a tip that leads to the Cook County Building, where Proviso Township employees appear to be doing "opposition research" for their boss, District 209 Board President Emanuel "Chris" Welch.
By Robert Herguth/BGA and Dane Placko/FOX Chicago
At the very moment former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was being sentenced in federal court, FOX Chicago News got a call reporting some new political tricks were taking place just down the street from the Dirksen Federal Building.
Princess Dempsey, a candidate for Illinois' 7th legislative district, said she and her campaign manager witnessed political workers pouring out of a truck owned by Proviso Township High School District 209.
"On company time. On school time," Dempsey said. "I couldn't believe it."
Dempsey said she recognized at least three of the people as District 209 employees.
It happened just outside the Cook County Building at 69 W. Washington. Dempsey and her campaign manager, Charisse Weatherly, said they followed the workers into the building and saw them go up to the fifth floor office of Cook County Clerk David Orr and begin checking political petitions.
One of the candidates in the state representative race is Emanuel "Chris" Welch, who serves as District 209 Board President.
Welch denies the district employees were performing political work on the taxpayers' dime.
"In addition to working at Proviso they're close personal friends of mine," Welch said. "And they volunteered to use personal time or personal days that they have to go down and look at some opposition signatures."
FOX Chicago and the Better Government Association went into Orr's office and found three district employees checking signatures on Dempsey's political petitions.
Carla Johnson is a secretary at District 209, Corey Johnson is a custodian and Ron Anderson is a supervisor who was recently promoted. The workers refused to say who they were working for, but denied being driven downtown in the school district truck.
FOX Chicago witnessed Anderson leave the County Building and walk a block west on Washington where the M-plated vehicle pulled over and picked him up.
We showed Welch video of the vehicle shot outside the County Building.
"If they were down there for (political) activity, then that would be inappropriate," Welch said.
Welch called later to say the employees had taken public transportation downtown, but the district truck was sent to pick up Anderson when a work emergency arose.
His opponent doesn't buy it.
"Enough is enough," Dempsey said. "I'm just looking for the State's Attorney or Attorney General to start investigating District 209."
A District 209 spokesperson said the employees had taken the day off, but said an investigation has been launched into the use of the district vehicle.
This story was written and reported by Robert Herguth, the BGA’s editor of investigations, Patrick Rehkamp, BGA senior investigator, and Dane Placko of FOX Chicago News. To contact Herguth, call (312) 821-9030 or email email@example.com.