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Ald. Hairston accuses runoff opponent Calloway of being a deadbeat

Community activist William Calloway speaks to reporters in the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Court Building before the start of the trial of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke murder trial in September. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Fighting for her political life, five-term incumbent Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) is accusing her opponent in the April 2 runoff of being a deadbeat, denying sorely-needed revenue to the city he hopes to serve.

Hairston’s campaign consultant Delmarie Cobb on Tuesday released a list of 60 tickets and four warnings piled up by William Calloway since March 2014.

The violations range from parking at an expired meter or in street cleaning zones and driving without wearing seatbelts to more serious red light and speed camera tickets.

Only three of those fines have been paid, according to the two-and-a-half-page list released by Cobb, showing the number and status of each ticket.

Calloway’s campaign manager Bobby Burns was quick to shoot down the deadbeat charge.

“All of those tickets have been resolved. He would be unable to run for office is he had outstanding debts,” Burns said Tuesday.

Most 5th Ward residents are more concerned about “being over-ticketed themselves” than they are about Calloway’s debt history, Burns said.

“The 5th Ward is the 13th-most ticketed in the city. We’d like to help folks with that problem,” the campaign manager said.

Cobb also attached a copy of the complaint filed last week by Calloway’s landlord seeking to evict him from his campaign office at 2030 E. 71st Street.

The complaint, filed by P and L Building IP, LLC, claims Calloway owes $15,000 in unpaid rent. A court hearing is scheduled for next week.

According to Cobb, it’s the sixth time Calloway has faced eviction notices for failing to pay rent or for leaving an apartment without paying what he owes.

Ald. Leslie Hairston speaking at a City Council meeting in 2016. | Chicago Sun-Times
Ald. Leslie Hairston speaking at a City Council meeting in 2016. | Chicago Sun-Times

“Calloway talks about transparency and helping small businesses, but not paying your bills is detrimental to small businesses. It seems the real reason Calloway is running is he’s looking for a job. Instead of lying about his opponent’s record, he needs to get his own house in order,” Cobb was quoted as saying in an emailed statement.

Calloway said he’s in the process of setting up a payment plan that would allow him to stay in his campaign office. He said he fell behind on rent, only because, unlike Hairston, “I have pledged not to take any contributions from developers to maintain my independence.”

On Feb. 26, Calloway forced Hairston into a runoff. She finished first with 48.5 percent or 6,284 votes. He finished second in a field of three with 26.7 percent or 3,464 votes.

Calloway is a community activist who helped force Mayor Rahm Emanuel to release the Laquan McDonald shooting video on Monday set his sights on the City Council.

He was one of two men who filed the Freedom of Information request that ultimately prompted a judge to order Emanuel to release the dashcam video that showed Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke firing 16 shots into the body of the black teenager.

After Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery, Calloway put incumbent black aldermen on notice.

“No black elected official showed up for us. It was just us. Our generation showed up,” Calloway said then.

“The City Council that voted for the settlements have to be removed. … Today, justice was delivered for Laquan McDonald, but it doesn’t stop there. … These other aldermen have to go. No black alderman showed up for this.”

African-American aldermen have been harshly criticized for signing off on a $5 million settlement to the family of Laquan McDonald — before a lawsuit had even been filed — without asking tough enough questions or seeing the incendiary shooting video.

Asked about Calloway’s claim on the day he declared his candidacy for alderman, Hairston initially defended the $5 million settlement.

“I did my job as a Council member. Hindsight is always 20-20,” she said.

“The families decide what the settlement is. It is our job as legislators to approve the recommendations of what the parties agree to. Aldermen are not part of the settlement negotiations.”

A few minutes later, Hairston called back to say that she had been reminded by her publicist that she was “out of town” and, therefore, did not attend the City Council meeting where aldermen signed off on the settlement.

“I have nothing to defend. I wasn’t there. I’m just setting the record straight,” she said.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, was also forced into a runoff.

He has emphatically denied participating in a “coverup” of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.

“There was no cover-up. We knew there was a horrible situation that occurred. The words that the corporation counsel used was that, in all likelihood, the officer was gonna get indicted and probably go to jail. He was absolutely correct,” Sawyer said then.

“It was prudent for us to settle that case fast because that $5 million settlement could have been a $50 million verdict – or even worse. We have to balance the interests of our citizenry and also be financial stewards. It doesn’t sound like a pleasant job — and it’s not. But it’s the job we’re tasked to do, and we did that. If people think there’s a better way to do that without putting the city into bankruptcy, please let me know.”