In one of his last acts before retiring from the Chicago Police Department, Supt. Phil Cline refused to discipline a detective who had submitted fraudulent documents to City Hall so he could operate a valet company that parked cars at Rush Street nightspots, newly obtained records show.
Detective Frank S. Esposito “committed acts of consumer fraud and deceptive practices,” an investigation by the police Internal Affairs Division found. Internal affairs recommended Cline suspend Esposito for 30 days.
Instead, Cline decided not to punish Esposito at all. Cline and Esposito are friends, and Cline was in Esposito’s wedding party.
Cline’s decision came in August 2007 — months after the Illinois Appellate Court had upheld fines City Hall imposed against Esposito for violating multiple city ordinances by submitting phony paperwork to obtain his city valet license.
Seven years later, Esposito’s court fight with City Hall is still going on. He’s trying to reduce the $252,373 in fines the city is garnishing from his $93,192-a-year detective’s salary. The city so far has collected about $70,000.
Cline’s decision to drop the disciplinary charges against Esposito is detailed in a “suspension notification” that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration released to the Chicago Sun-Times after a recent court decision which found that misconduct complaints against police officers are subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Esposito — who worked in the Area 5 detective division when Cline was the commander there — couldn’t be reached for comment.
Cline won’t comment on the case, saying: “Since leaving public service approximately seven years ago, I have declined to discuss the specifics of disciplinary cases I reviewed, many of which are more than a decade old . . . I no longer have access to the files and am unable to reconstruct exactly what I reviewed at the time. As a result, it would be improper for me to comment on a specific case now.”
Cline, 64, gets an annual police pension of $158,932 — the richest retirement deal of any Chicago cop.
He also is the executive director of The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, a job that paid him $115,707 in 2012, according to the not-for-profit organization’s most recent filing with the Internal Revenue Service. The foundation provides financial assistance to families of slain and injured officers.
Esposito, 54, has been with the police department for 25 years.
He started Express Valet Inc. in 2000.
Three years later, the city audited his company after one of his employees let someone drive off in somebody else’s car from a Rush Street bar.
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration accused Esposito of providing false insurance certificates to City Hall to obtain a valet parking license, operating a valet parking service without liability insurance and failing to pay $2,757 in parking-lot taxes.
Esposito paid the parking-lot taxes — but his check bounced, according to court records. Express Valet is no longer in business.
An administrative law judge found Esposito guilty of the disciplinary charges. That finding was upheld by a Cook County judge and then, on May 29, 2007, by the Illinois Appellate Court.
Less than three months later, on Aug. 15, 2007, Cline closed the internal affairs case against Esposito, who’d been accused by IAD of making “false reports regarding having current and valid insurance” for Express Valet and failing to notify the police department he was under investigation by another city agency.
Cline put a slash through IAD’s recommendation to suspend Esposito for 30 days and wrote that the charges were “not sustained,” dismissing the case without explanation.
Though the document signed by Cline was stamped Aug. 15, 2007, city records show the superintendent’s last day on the job was Aug. 4, 2007.
In 2011, Esposito went back to court to challenge the city’s fines, which he says are excessive. Cook County Circuit Judge Robert Lopez Cepero has ordered the city’s administrative hearings department to hold a hearing on Esposito’s fines.
Esposito is also involved in a separate Internal Affairs Division investigation, involving missing files in the death of Jason Stangeland, a case originally assigned to Esposito. Stangeland, 30, of Des Plaines, died in 2010 from injuries suffered in an altercation at a Rush Street bar two years earlier.