Arroyo says he didn’t try to fix friend’s ticket, accuses cop and inspector general of ‘racial bias’

The county commissioner says accusations leveled by the county inspector general makes him and other board members “concerned about his fitness for this position.”

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Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr.

Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. during County Board meeting in 2015. File Photo.

Saiyna Bashir/Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. says he didn’t ask to dismiss a friend’s parking ticket when he got involved in a situation documented in a Cook County inspector general report.

“I requested that the situation surrounding the issuing of the parking ticket be investigated because I believe this ticket was issued as a result of racial bias and discrimination,” Arroyo said.

The “accusation” that he did seek to get the ticket tossed out, which was leveled against him in the report released last week by Inspector General Patrick Blanchard, now makes Arroyo and other commissioners concerned about Blanchard’s “fitness for this position,” Arroyo said in a statement released Monday.

That’s a change in tune for the commissioner, who said last week Blanchard was “doing a fine job.” Now Arroyo says the inspector general should be investigated.

“I believe that racial bias resulted in the ticket and at this point, I have no reason to doubt that racial bias may have also played a role in this biased Inspector General’s report,” Arroyo said.

Responding to Arroyo’s latest remarks, Blanchard said “whichever commissioner might have found themselves in the situation, the outcome would have been the same.”

“As outlined in the report, the commissioner was interviewed and denied that race was the basis for the ticket being issued,” Blanchard said.

On Friday, Arroyo told the Chicago Sun-Times intervening in 36th Ward Supt. Luis Pena’s parking ticket woes wasn’t just to protect his buddy, but all Latinos. He noted the ticket was issued just months after a man yelled at a woman for wearing a shirt bearing the Puerto Rican flag while a Cook County Forest Preserve police officer looked on.

“I wanted to make sure our Latino community was not being attacked in the Forest Preserves by members of law enforcement,” Arroyo said Friday. “I was one of two Latinos on the board at that time and at this time. I wanted to make sure we’re being treated fairly and make sure we’re being treated fairly by our officers.”

He doubled down on that explanation Monday, stating the department was still under scrutiny for that incident and “this particular ticket was issued by a white officer and a Latino trainee to a Latino person without any reasonable justification.”

“This member of the Latino community had pulled into an empty parking lot, parked at the closest parking space to his lawfully registered event and was unloading his car prior to any park patrons arriving,” according to Arroyo’s statement. “The parking lot was empty, he was actively unloading his car and there was no one in the park when he was targeted for a ticket.”

According to Blanchard’s report, which was released last week, Arroyo stepped in after Pena was ticketed for parking in a handicapped spot, which carries a $250 fine.

Arroyo contacted a “high-ranking [Forest Preserve Police] official” about voiding the citation, according to the report. Because the officer “displayed a poor attitude,” Arroyo asked for the cop to be sent to his office for questioning, the report says.

When questioned by Blanchard about intervening, Arroyo claimed to want to “address problems between minority and law enforcement communities” and to go over the procedure for challenging the ticket. That explanation, about challenging the ticket, “strained credulity,” according to the inspector general.

Arroyo also acknowledged none of the “historical problems” of community-police relations was at play, and the ticket-challenging procedure was listed on the ticket, according to the report.

Asked about Blanchard’s summary of their interview on Friday, Arroyo said, “That’s how Blanchard phrased it. He’s doing ‘a fine job. It is what it is.’”

Now, Arroyo says the officers didn’t care to hear Pena’s explanation about the situation and Blanchard didn’t care to hear about his.

“Unlike Inspector General Blanchard not allowing me to provide context to his accusation, I wanted to hear the officers’ side of the story before making up my mind about the incident,” Arroyo said in his statement.

“In fact, Inspector General Blanchard made up his mind about this issue without trying to contact the park’s witnesses or the person who received the ticket. He never actually conducted an investigation but instead leveled accusations that make me, and other commissioners, concerned about his fitness for this position.”

Forest Preserve Police Chief Kelvin Pope stepped down last week in the wake of Blanchard’s report after he “intervened in the matter,” according to a statement from Forest Preserves General Supt. Arnold Randall.

Arroyo now wants Blanchard to explain his processes and procedures and “show us what type of racial sensitivity training he and his staff have undergone.”

“In addition, I call for a re-examination of the incident that propelled the events mentioned in the report, by an unbiased independent source,” Arroyo’s statement concludes.

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