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Cicero official alleges the fix is in on building code violations

12-17-09 Cook County Courts building, 26th and California Ave., Chicago - Edward Ziemba, uncle of Epson Livingston, answers reporters' questions with tears in his eyes, after the arraignment of Tyrice Pryor, the suspect in Livingston's homicide investigation, at the Cook County courthouse Thursday in Chicago. Pryor is accused of running over Livingston with his van on the 3800 block of W. Diversey Pkwy. on Tuesday. - JOHN J. KIM ~ SUN-TIMES

The Town of Cicero’s deputy building commissioner is alleging that building code violation tickets are being fixed and residents’ safety is being put at risk, according to a confidential letter addressed to Town President Larry Dominick and obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Ed Ziemba, 50, a former local school board president and ex-town housing board chairman, contends in the letter that Dominick pressured town employees to allow a local restaurant to open this month despite a pending sprinkler issue.

Ziemba also alleges that building code violation tickets for others businesses were fixed.

“You are putting the residents of Cicero and all who visit the restaurant in danger,” Ziemba wrote, in the letter dated Nov. 16.

Ziemba wrote he “cannot stand by and allow laws to be violated or turn a blind eye to safety violations that will endanger the public because someone has political affiliations or has paid money to have the rules bent in their favor.”

Cicero Town spokesman Ray Hanania blasted Ziemba in a written response, saying: “It’s tragic that Mr. Ziemba . . . waited until after the Cicero Town Board publicly ordered a reorganization of his department to make these scurrilous and unsubstantiated allegations.”

Hanania said Ziemba is trying “to create a red-herring to cover up his own management failures to protect his job because he did not do his job.”

Hanania said no exceptions were made for the restaurant cited by Ziemba, but that town inspectors were simply asked to be timely in their reports after long delays. He said Dominick has never talked to anyone about tickets and passed along Ziemba’s letter to the town’s inspector general. Hanania said the businesses mentioned by Ziemba in his letter have been fined thousands of dollars, their tickets not dismissed.

Ziemba has worked for the town since 1997 and had been a political supporter of Dominick’s, donating money to him as recently as last year. Ziemba wrote that in August this year, an aide to Dominick visited his office, tossed the paperwork from tickets onto his desk and asked them to make them disappear.

“I told [the assistant] I don’t make things disappear,” Ziemba wrote. “You know this about me.”

Ziemba confirmed he wrote the letter but declined to speak at length when reached earlier this week, other than to note he had contacted the state fire marshal’s office about the restaurant and to express concern that the town was going to fire him after raising the issues.

Ziemba wrote in the letter that he had tried to meet repeatedly with Dominick about the issues but was rebuffed.

In the letter, Ziemba criticized Dominick for moving his son, Derek Dominick, over to the building department because Derek Dominick is someone who “will follow your orders and look the other way.” Derek Dominick has run the town’s human resources department, and the town is currently under investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Hanania said Derek Dominick is “interviewing employees and reviewing protocols within the department” before the town restructures it. The building department has been investigated 20 times since 2006 by the town’s inspector general, Hanania said.

Ziemba ended his letter, writing: “I am a team player as long as the team plays by the rules.”