EDITORIAL: Toni Preckwinkle and ‘The Case of the Abandoned SUV’

SHARE EDITORIAL: Toni Preckwinkle and ‘The Case of the Abandoned SUV’

Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board president candidate and incumbent. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

As mysteries go, solving this one shouldn’t take a Sherlock Holmes.

We’re pretty sure Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle could clear up the matter instantly, if she only cared to. Every day she does not is another reminder that, at least in Chicago and Cook County, even reformers ain’t always ready for reform.


Back in November 2016, a county-owned SUV was found abandoned in a ditch near suburban Lemont. It had two flat tires. Inside were bags of campaign materials, including a button with Preckwinkle’s face and sample ballots.

Also found was a dry-cleaning receipt for a member of Preckwinkle’s security team, Delwin Gadlen.

Our first logical deduction, though we admit we’re not Sherlock Holmes, is that Gadlen was transporting campaign materials from one place to another, violating a law that says campaign business must be kept separate from county business. Our second deduction is that it was Gadlen who drove the SUV into the ditch, though who knows how or why. The vehicle was not reported stolen.

The sheriff’s office reported the incident 12 days later to Cook County Independent Inspector General Patrick Blanchard, who opened an investigation. And that’s where things stand, still a mystery, 16 months later.

The whole business has a smell about it, especially since Preckwinkle won’t talk to reporters about it. What’s the big secret? And, for that matter, where does Blanchard’s investigation stand?

We have endorsed Preckwinkle for reelection in next week’s Democratic primary, and that’s not going to change. She’s been an effective county leader and her priorities — such as improving the county health care system and reducing the jail population, are excellent.

But when it comes to this goofy business of the abandoned SUV, we’ll venture another logical deduction: Preckwinkle had hoped the whole thing would blow over without having to address it. If we’re wrong, please correct us.

Gadlen worked as volunteer in Preckwinkle’s campaign when she first ran for county board president in 2010, and she then hired him to be a member of her security detail. She quickly increased his salary from $90,290 to $100,260.

What we have here is a classic story of Chicago politics in all its petty strangeness: “The Case of the Abandoned SUV.”

Stay tuned, kids, for further developments.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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