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High-powered lawyer’s new task: ethics in Cicero

He helped Mayor Rahm Emanuel get his job, helped former Gov. Rod Blagojevich lose his job and helped Cicero Town President Larry Dominick keep his job.

High-powered lawyer and lobbyist Mike Kasper’s latest mission might be even more challenging: keeping an eye on ethics in Cicero, where one former town president is a felon and a buddy of Dominick’s is under federal indictment.

Kasper, who has close ties to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, won’t talk about his appointment as Cicero’s new ethics officer.

“I don’t talk about my relationships with my clients,” Kasper said.

According to Cicero town spokesman Ray Hanania, Kasper isn’t a town employee and the ethics post isn’t paid.

Hanania, in a statement complaining about the Chicago Sun-Times’ coverage of Cicero, said the town is grateful Kasper agreed to do the work for free.

“The town hopes that the Sun-Times’ efforts to intentionally disparage the town do not result in Mr. Kasper choosing to end his service to the town as its pro bono ethics officer,” Hanania said.

Hanania wouldn’t say why Cicero apparently created the post in May, how Kasper got it or what he’s supposed to be doing.

Kasper was one of Republican Town President Dominick’s election lawyers earlier this year. He also has served as Madigan’s top legal counsel and is currently legal counsel and treasurer for the Illinois Democratic Party, headed by Madigan.

In the residency battle that threatened to keep Emanuel off the 2011 Chicago mayoral ballot, Kasper successfully beat back the challenge and then became City Hall’s top lobbyist after that.

Kasper was the Illinois House’s outside prosecutor in the impeachment of the now-imprisoned Blagojevich.

Kasper was one of three lawyers who represented Dominick in January when opponents tried to get the incumbent president tossed off the ballot for last spring’s municipal election. Campaign records show he was paid $1,500 by the Friends of Larry Dominick campaign committee.

Juan Ochoa, who ran against Dominick in the last election, questions what good an ethics officer will do in Cicero.

“It’s kind of like having a lifeguard in a pool with no water,” Ochoa said. “To have an ethics officer in Cicero is laughable.”

Also contributing: Jon Seidel