Banned contractor, embraced by Rosemont, has given Mayor Bradley Stephens nearly $170K

The Palumbo family’s companies were banned from state- or federally-funded work over a 1990s fraud case but allowed to get municipally fund projects.

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Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens.

Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens.

Sun-Times file

It’s been more than two decades since the Palumbo family’s construction companies were caught up in a corruption investigation that found widespread fraud committed by two of their businesses.

The family’s late patriarch Peter Palumbo and sons Sebastian and Joseph Palumbo were convicted in a related case and sent to prison.

And the Palumbo family’s companies were forever banned from getting state- or federally- funded work, though not municipally funded projects.

But a Palumbo family business that wasn’t involved in the 1990s scandal but faced the same bans has continued to get contracts from the village of Rosemont, records show. Orange Crush, LLC, has been paid more than $25 million by Rosemont since Bradley Stephens became mayor in 2007, records show.

Since the convictions, Orange Crush has given nearly $170,000 to campaign funds controlled by Stephens — who’s also a Republican state legislator seeking to hold onto that post in the Nov. 3 election — or funds benefiting him, campaign finance records show.

That includes $5,000 that went this year to Stephens’ legislative campaign fund, another $5,000 this year to the Stephens Political Action Committee NFP, $5,000 given last year to the campaign fund covering Stephens’ activities as Leyden Township’s Republican Party committeeman and $5,000 that went to his mayoral campaign fund in 2017, the records show.

Orange Crush’s political contributions to Stephens account for about 30% of the $575,000 the company has given to local politicians and political organizations over a span of more than 20 years, records show.

Stephens will face Democrat Michelle Darbro, a Chicago firefighter/paramedic backed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, in November to represent a legislative district covering parts of Chicago’s Northwest Side and the northwest suburbs.

The Palumbo-run companies convicted in the corruption case were Palumbo Bros. Inc. and Monarch Asphalt Co. They admitted they falsified records for materials, cheating taxpayers out of millions of dollars on dozens of government road projects.

Other Palumbo businesses, including Orange Crush, which is based in Hillside and run by Sebastian Palumbo, also were barred indefinitely from state and federal work.

Stephens, who was a Rosemont village trustee since the late 1980s before becoming mayor, declined to comment. Nor would Orange Crush representatives.

Earlier this year, William Helm, a political operative who has worked for city, county and state governments, was charged with trying to bribe state Sen. Martin Sandoval in 2017 to help get the Illinois Department of Transportation’s approval “for signalization and roadwork” on an East Dundee development project involving a company called PAL Land LLC.

Joseph Palumbo is one of that company’s corporate managers. He declined to comment except to say he’s not involved with Orange Crush.

Sandoval, who was chairman of the Illinois Senate Transportation Committee, has pleaded guilty in another case, resigned his office and is cooperating with federal authorities.

Helm has signaled in court records he intends to plead guilty.

Federal investigators haven’t charged any of the Palumbos or their companies in the Helm case.

Orange Crush gave Sandoval’s campaign fund $1,000 in 2015, and it has been a bigger campaign contributor to other Chicago and suburban politicians caught up in federal corruption investigations spanning the region. Campaign finance records show the company has given:

  • $14,500 since 2000 to campaign funds benefiting Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), who has been charged with attempted extortion, accused of trying to muscle a Burger King franchise in his ward into hiring his law firm for tax appeals work.
  • $12,000 since 2009 to a campaign fund for Jeffrey Tobolski, the former Cook County Board member and McCook mayor who has pleaded guilty in an extortion and bribery case involving both of those posts.
  • $7,500 since 2014 to campaign funds for Lyons Mayor Chris Getty, whose political and business offices were raided by federal agents in September 2019. Getty hasn’t been charged with any crime.
  • $3,500 since 2011 to a campaign fund for now-former Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Tony Ragucci, who resigned in January after federal agents seized $60,000 in cash from his home. He hasn’t been charged with any crime.
  • $2,500 in 1999 to a campaign fund controlled by Madigan — a contribution reported months after the Palumbos were sentenced to prison. Madigan is now under scrutiny by federal authorities investigating whether, with the help of lobbyists, he pressured ComEd to hire certain people and businesses.
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