Rep. Arroyo, facing bribery charge, resigns from Illinois House

The resignation comes just days after federal prosecutors alleged he offered to pay a state senator $2,500 a month to sponsor gambling-related legislation.

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State Rep. Luis Arroyo leaves the Dirksen Federal Building in October.

State Rep. Luis Arroyo

Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

When it came time to part ways with his colleagues in the Illinois House of Representatives on Friday, Luis Arroyo decided to pass along some words of wisdom.

They read like they came from someone who learned the hard way. 

“Public service should be for a duration of time wherein you are an effective member of the body,” Arroyo wrote in an unusually lengthy resignation letter to House Speaker Michael Madigan. “Once you have gone beyond your period of peak effectiveness, you should really call it a day and retire while you can still enjoy the later years in your life.” 

The 65-year-old Arroyo wrote those words in a letter delivered Friday, one week after his arrest by federal authorities for allegedly passing a $2,500 bribe to a state senator to move sweepstakes gaming legislation forward in Springfield. That arrest added Arroyo to the list of Illinois politicians caught up in multiple, widening federal campaigns against public corruption — which seem to be targeting veteran, old-school Chicago politicians.

Arroyo’s arrest also means he could spend some of the “later years” of his life in prison.

The letter contained Arroyo’s first public comments since his Oct. 25 arrest. They came across as a word of warning to veteran politicians as the known breadth of the ongoing federal investigation continues to grow. The criminal complaint against Arroyo revealed the on-and-off cooperation with the FBI of a state senator who expects to be charged for filing false tax returns. That senator mentioned being “in the twilight” on one covert recording. 

A source has identified that senator as Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills, though Link has publicly denied it. 

Arroyo’s resignation came after four full days of public pressure and negative headlines, which began with the unsealing of the complaint against Arroyo on Monday. It also came with an important timestamp: the first of the month. According to the Illinois General Assembly Compensation Act, “a member who has held office any part of a month is entitled to compensation for an entire month.” 

Arroyo also serves as the 36th Ward Democratic Committeeman for the Cook County Democratic Party. Arroyo has not submitted a letter of resignation to the Cook County Democratic Party regarding his role as a committeeman, according to spokeswoman Delmarie Cobb. 

“She’s [Cook County Democratic Party Chair Toni Preckwinkle is] going to take the weekend before she says anything, to look into what this resignation might mean in terms of a replacement and what that process is,” Cobb said Friday. 

News of Arroyo’s resignation letter led to the cancellation of a Special Investigating Committee hearing scheduled for Friday to begin proceedings to force Arroyo out of office.

“I have decided that continuing my public service would cause a distraction to this august body,” Arroyo wrote in his resignation letter. “But more importantly, it was my sincere desire to spare the members of this body from having to take such a difficult vote at a time when you are all running for re-election considering how well we have all worked together.”

In a statement, Madigan said that “Arroyo’s resignation shouldn’t distract from the fact that the allegations contained in this criminal complaint go beyond anything that could be considered a lapse of judgment or minor indiscretion. These allegations are beyond extraordinary, which is why it called for the creation of the Special Investigative Committee and possible disciplinary action.”

Meanwhile, House Republicans used Arroyo’s resignation as a tool to ramp up pressure on Link. It was the first time lawmakers have publicly pushed for Link to step down — albeit in his role as a member of the Legislative Ethics Commission, not as a legislator. 

“The criminal complaint against Rep. Arroyo has shaken any trust the public had left in the General Assembly,” Deputy Minority Leader Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said. “In an effort to begin restoring public confidence, Senator Terry Link needs to step down immediately from his position on the Legislative Ethics Commission while this widespread federal investigation continues.”

Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope did not immediately return calls for comment on whether Link should remain in that position. Link was appointed to the commission by Illinois Senate President John Cullerton. The Democratic leader has balked at removing not only Link as a senator but also Sen. Thomas Cullerton, who in August was hit with a 41-count federal indictment, including 39 counts of embezzlement. John Cullerton also refused to call on state Sen. Martin Sandoval to step down from a key committee after his offices were raided by the feds.

Both Tom Cullerton and Link were in attendance for the first half of the veto session this week, unlike Sandoval and Arroyo. Earlier this week, a federal prosecutor told the judge presiding over Cullerton’s case it “sounds like we’re going to trial,” but the judge declined to set a trial date.

Though the federal investigations have most recently directed public attention toward Springfield, the feds’ work went public in November 2018 with a raid that eventually led to charges against Ald. Edward M. Burke, (14th). The Chicago Sun-Times revealed in January that then-Ald. Danny Solis (25th) also cooperated with the feds and wore a wire to help ensnare Burke.

The words in Arroyo’s resignation letter Friday were reminiscent of comments Solis made on the WTTW-TV program “Chicago Tonight” before his cooperation became known. Solis also seemed to offer a word of warning, suggesting Burke should retire. 

“You got money, you got a great family, you got grandkids,” Solis said. “Why do you want to run?” 

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