Three DUI arrests, revoked license — still on sheriff’s payroll

SHARE Three DUI arrests, revoked license — still on sheriff’s payroll

He’s had a revoked driver’s license for more than 20 years.

He’s been convicted twice of DUI.

And he’s facing trial for his third DUI — accused of driving drunk with his 14-year-old daughter in the car — in the same Skokie courthouse where he works for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

He’s Alberto Aguirre, 57, a former Cook County sheriff’s deputy who has lost his power to make arrests and carry a gun.

What he hasn’t lost is his $70,500 a year job. And he’s just 11 months shy of retirement.  He’s now working a desk job for Dart’s office in the Skokie courthouse, where he goes to trial next month on charges of felony aggravated DUI, driving on a revoked license and endangering his daughter.

Depending on the outcome of that criminal case and two professional complaints against him, he could even retire with full pension benefits next year, Sheriff Tom Dart’s office has acknowledged. 

Aguirre worked most of his career at courthouse security at the Daley Center. He was “de-deputized” in 2012 after his most recent DUI arrest on Feb. 16, 2012, according to Dart’s office. 

On that night, Aguirre crashed a car into the back of an SUV stopped at a light near Pulaski Road and Berteau Avenue in the Irving Park neighborhood, according to a complaint brought against him by Dart’s Office of Professional Review.

Concerned he could lose his job, Aguirre — who had his 14-year-old daughter in the car — allegedly offered to pay the driver of the SUV if he did not call the police, according to the complaint. Later, he refused to take a Breathalyzer test when officers showed up, but admitted to drinking “three to four beers” before driving, the complaint states. No one was seriously hurt in the crash.

Five days and a court date passed before he reported the crash to his superiors, according to the complaint. Even then, he acknowledged he had been driving without a license, but made no mention of his DUI charge, the complaint states. 

More than two years later, his trial for DUI is just underway, which baffles Rob Rittmeyer, the driver of the SUV. 

“He should have been fired 25 years ago,” said Rittmeyer, a Chicago public high school teacher. 

“If you have DUIs and your license is suspended, you should be fired pretty quickly. If not the first time, then maybe the second or third one,” Rittmeyer said.

Aguirre could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Steven M. Goldman, declined to comment. 

Records show Aguirre — who lives just blocks from the crash site — was first convicted of DUI in 1979. 

The conviction didn’t stop him from getting hired by the Sheriff’s Department in 1985, which Dart’s office attributes to more lax attitudes towards drunk driving at the time.

In 1989, according to court records, he was again convicted of DUI, after Wilmette police pulled him over for speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road. Aguirre reported this arrest to the department, but personnel records do not indicate if he was disciplined.

As a result of that conviction, Aguirre’s license was revoked. And according to records kept by the Secretary of State’s office, he never bothered to get reinstated. 

Deputies whose jobs don’t involve driving, aren’t required to have a license, according to Dart’s office. But not having a drivers’ license is also grounds for not hiring an applicant for deputy, officials said.

Dart’s office has sought to fire Aguirre, filing two formal complaints with the Sheriff’s Merit Board, which handles employee matters. One of the complaints alleges Aguirre failed to show up at work at the Skokie Courthouse eight different times after the crash. The board was to take up the complaint earlier this month, but had to delay the hearing because Aguirre was in court on the DUI charges. 

The second complaint brought against Aguirre stems from the DUI accident Aguirre is currently standing trial for, which is scheduled to resume next week in Skokie. The sheriff’s office said the Merit Board will not take up that complaint until after the trial. 

Cara Smith, director of the jail and one of Dart’s chief aides, said the process could possibly be drawn out until after Aguirre retires.

She noted that state law dictates employees can have their pension revoked only if they are convicted of a felony related to their employment. Aguirre was off-duty and driving his own car at the time of the crash. 

“While the vast majority of employees are hardworking and work very difficult and dangerous jobs, we have employees who fall well short of our expectations. And the system we deal with is frustratingly slow,” Smith said.

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