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BGA PUBLIC EYE: Feds subpoenaed Cicero on insider deals

Federal authorities subpoenaed the town of Cicero for records of deals with two politically connected companies, including a Woodridge promotional products company at which the town spent $19,061 last year to buy items including lip balm, nail files and pencil sharpeners from You & Me — all imprinted with the name of Cicero Town President Larry Dominick, seen here. | Sun-Times file photo

By Andrew Schroedter

The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago has subpoenaed the town of Cicero for records of deals with two politically connected companies, the Better Government Association has learned.

Federal authorities asked for invoices, payment records and other documents relating to You & Me and the Woodridge promotional products company’s owners, Rosemary Walsh Konz and her husband Daniel Konz, since 2008, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained from Cicero through a public records request made under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Last year, the town spent $19,061 to buy items including lip balm, nail files and pencil sharpeners from You & Me — all imprinted with the name of Cicero Town President Larry Dominick, records show.

Since Dominick took office in 2005, Cicero has spent more than $890,000 on merchandise bought from You & Me Inc., whose co-owner Rosemary Konz is the daughter of Cicero Trustee Lorraine Walsh, a longtime Dominick supporter.

The items also have included thousands of ice cream scoops, mouse pads, back scratchers, lint rollers, hand sanitizers and holiday ornaments, as well as beach balls and balloons imprinted with contact information for Cicero’s rodent control department, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported. They typically were given away at town events.

The subpoena — which lists the names of an Internal Revenue Service agent and a federal prosecutor — also demanded town records regarding Lembke & Sons True Value Hardware in Berwyn and an affiliated business.

Lembke & Sons Hardware in Berwyn. | Sun-Times file photo

Lembke & Sons Hardware in Berwyn. | Sun-Times file photo

The Sun-Times has reported that Cicero spent more than $3 million at Lembke & Sons since 2005. The store, owned by Alan Lembke, has contributed more than $69,000 to Dominick’s campaign funds since 2005, Illinois State Board of Elections records show.

The town’s records were to be turned over to a special grand jury that convened Dec. 15, according to the subpoena. Grand juries typically are convened so evidence can be considered in a criminal investigation.

Joseph Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, would not comment.

Ray Hanania, a Cicero town spokesman, declined to comment on the subpoena.

But, Hanania said, “The contractors have been doing business with the town long before Larry came to office in 2005.”

Rosemary and Daniel Konz founded You & Me in 1998, according to the company’s website. Rosemary Konz has been a member of the town’s Housing and Real Estate Board since Dominick appointed her in 2006.

From You & Me's website.

Rosemary Walsh Konz and Daniel Konz | Photo from You & Me Inc. website.

You & Me has contributed $6,550 in cash and merchandise to Dominick’s campaign funds since 2005, and Walsh has given more than $21,000, according to elections board records.

Cicero’s spending at You & Me has declined since hitting $149,573 in 2012. Town officials spent $49,131 there in 2013, $40,915 in 2014 and $19,061 last year, records show. Last year’s purchases included $2,157 for 3,500 sticks of cherry lip balm, $2,600 for 5,000 nail files and $2,580 for 2,500 pencil sharpeners, all emblazoned with Dominick’s name, invoices show.

Rosemary Konz had no comment.

Walsh couldn’t be reached.

Lembke didn’t return messages.

Last year, in another case that had drawn federal scrutiny, the owner of a sewer repair company was sentenced to six months in prison for non-payment of federal income taxes on money he was paid by Cicero. The company, Superior Sewer Solution, had gotten no-bid work from Cicero. The company and its owner had been Dominick campaign contributors.