Cook County official pleads not guilty to bribery charges stemming from work for red-light camera company

Patrick Doherty, who serves as Cook County commissioner Jeff Tobolski’s chief of staff, allegedly made under-the-table payments in an effort to expand the reach of a red-light camera company in Oak Lawn.

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Patrick Doherty, chief of staff for Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, exits the Dirksen Federal Building after pleading not guilty at his arraignment, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Chicago.

Patrick Doherty, chief of staff for Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, exits the Dirksen Federal Building after pleading not guilty at his arraignment, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Chicago.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A high-ranking Cook County official pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he conspired to bribe a relative of an Oak Lawn trustee in a bid to have red-light cameras installed in the southwest suburb.

Patrick Doherty, who serves as Cook County commissioner Jeff Tobolski’s chief of staff, has worked as a paid consultant for SafeSpeed LLC, a politically-connected red-light camera company that has come under federal scrutiny in recent months. An indictment made public last week accuses Doherty of agreeing to make the under-the-table payments in 2017 as he sought to expand SafeSpeed’s reach in Oak Lawn.

Doherty, 64, of Palos Heights, pleaded not guilty to three counts of bribery during the swift hearing Thursday and he was released on his own recognizance.

The indictment alleges that Doherty and two others involved with SafeSpeed agreed to pay $4,000 to the Oak Lawn trustee’s relative over eight weeks weeks. Doherty — who once told the Sun-Times that he received “a small percentage” of SafeSpeed tickets issued in some communities — made one $500 payment on June 15, 2017, federal authorities said.

The charges against Doherty could spell trouble for Tobolski, who also serves as mayor of McCook. The feds descended on his office in the tiny suburban village during a September raid that also targeted other southwest suburbs.

SafeSpeed is also at the center of the case filed against former state Sen. Martin Sandoval, who has admitted to taking $70,000 in “protection” money from someone with an interest in the firm. Sandoval had worked to block legislation deemed harmful to the industry.

Sandoval has also admitted accepting more than $250,000 in bribes “as part of criminal activity that involved more than five participants,” and he has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

As part of Doherty’s supervised release, he had to hand over his passport and won’t be able to travel outside of Illinois’ Northern District.

“I’m assuming I’m not going to see you again,” said Judge Gabriel Fuentes. “Is that understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Doherty said timidly.

Doherty and his attorney Michael Monaco declined to comment after the hearing. His next court date was set for March 17. 

Contributing: Jon Seidel

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