Editorial: Follow red-light camera corruption trail to very end

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Chicago’s red-light cameras don’t stop looking for more bad drivers just because they caught one.

By the same token, here’s hoping federal prosecutors don’t let up after Tuesday’s conviction of ex-Chicago transportation official John Bills for pocketing bribes to steer red-light contracts to Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., a Phoenix outfit. Here’s hoping the feds follow every last lingering lead. Corruption in Chicago is so often a team sport.

As juror Mike Woerner, a former Hinsdale village president, told the Sun-Times of Chicago politics: “What I thought before, I think today. That stuff happens.”

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The evidence in Bills’ trial made it clear that plenty of money was floating around. As assistant commissioner in the Chicago Department of Transportation, Bills got more than $18,000 in posh hotel stays, fancy dinners, computers, cigars and the use of a $177,000 Arizona condo for steering $131 million in contracts to Redflex. Reflex also hired a friend of Bills’ to pass him $560,000 in bribes.

It’s not that we buy into defense lawyer Nishay Sanan’s theory that the cash bribes really went to lobbyists on the Redflex payroll with ties to Emanuel, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and former Mayor Richard M. Daley. The jury didn’t buy into that, either, taking less than a day to convict Bills on 20 counts of fraud, extortion, bribery and other crimes that together could send him to prison for 10 years after he is sentenced.

U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon told jurors, “The idea that lobbyists were paid to funnel money to people like Mike Madigan and Ed Burke and Rahm Emanuel is pretty grandiose, but there is not one single shred of evidence that supports any of it.”

He also called the defense theory “malarkey.”

But that’s not to say it’s impossible someone else was in on the scheme, especially given such large sums of money.

Fardon, who personally participated in Bills’ prosecution, called public corruption “a disease.”

It can be highly infectious.

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