With frustration mounting and the Feb. 24 election fast approaching, Chicago aldermen will do just about anything to get the snow removed from side streets, sidewalks and alleys buried by the Super Bowl Sunday blizzard.
But how about taking help from a corrupt city contractor and thanking him publicly on Facebook?
That’s what Ald. John Pope (10th) has been doing in recent days after Anthony Cappello and Cappello’s disgraced company, Diamond Coring, helped Pope’s Far Southeast Side ward dig out from the storm that buried Chicago in 19 1/2 inches of snow.
One posting on Pope’s Facebook page this week features a smiling Cappello posing in a bobcat with a message that states, “A big thank you to Tony Cappello from Diamond Coring for assisting with snow removal earlier today. Tony assisted business owners and cleared a path for CTA bus riders.”
Another posting under the headline, “Diamond Coring Digging it Up,” shows Cappello’s equipment removing piles of snow along busy Commercial Avenue.
Pope’s message reads, “Many thanks to Tony Cappello of Diamond Coring for assisting with snow removal in the 10th Ward. Tony assisted business owners in the South Chicago area as well as cleared paths for CTA bus riders along S. Commercial Ave. Thank you, Tony for your help.”
Cappello is a corrupt city contractor-turned-FBI informant who’s been barred from doing business with the city after using his wife as front to cash in on $2.3 million in contracts earmarked for minorities and women.
His clout-heavy company, Diamond Coring, actually did the work. Diamond Coring was also responsible for carving the giant X’s into Meigs Field’s only runway on the infamous night in March 2003 when then-Mayor Richard M. Daley sent in the bulldozers under cover of darkness.
In spite of that checkered past, Pope made no apologies, either for enlisting Cappello’s help in the 10th Ward dig out or for thanking him on Facebook.
“No one is complaining. More people are concerned about being able to get out of their homes and get to the doctor. To have people help out is making that a reality. He’s a local businessman. He’s willing to help out. I think it’s great. I wish we had more of it,” said Pope, who is fighting for survival against six aldermanic challengers.
“People want to be served and need to be served. It’s wonderful that people are stepping up to the plate. It’s wonderful that, during a time of need when the city is dealing with the fifth-worst storm in its history, that we have neighbors helping neighbors and industries stepping up and showcasing the 10th Ward and its sense of community.”
In July 2012, Cappello pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud for using his wife as a phony female front.
After the federal investigation broke, Cappello disbanded the front company and helped authorities make an even bigger case against Elizabeth Perino.
Perino was accused of operating two, phony women-owned businesses that were subcontractors to McHugh Construction on four city contracts worth a total of $200 million — including overhauls of the CTA’s Red and Brown lines and Wacker Drive.
Cappello was initially sentenced to six months in prison, only to have a federal judge change her mind in the middle of sentencing and allow him to serve his time in home confinement.
U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow spared Cappello in response to his desperate plea for freedom even as she acknowledged that the justice system favors wealthy white-collar criminals like him over the relatively poor drug dealers who fill the nation’s prisons.
The judge had received an avalanche of letters on Cappello’s behalf.
On Thursday, Pope was asked whether he wrote one of those letters on behalf of Cappello, one of the alderman’s most reliable campaign fundraisers.
“I don’t know. I’d have to check my files. I don’t recall. I’ve written a ton of letters,” the alderman said.
On Jan. 30, Cappello made an “in-kind” contribution to Pope in the form of $2,482.73 for a fundraiser at Marcello’s Restaurant.
Last year, Pope came under fire for hiring as a $57,048-a-year staff assistant a former Streets and Sanitation worker who had landed on the city’s “do-not-hire” list after being accused of sexually harassing a female co-worker and threatening to rape her when she complained about him.
Pope fired Thomas J. Sadzak only after the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the woman had won a $99,000 settlement from City Hall.
Contributing: Dan Mihalopoulos