When John Ryan ran for mayor of Alsip in 2017, his campaign fliers struck a strong populist tone.
“Representation Not Compensation,” one declared, referring to his successful push as a village trustee in 2012 to cut the pay and benefits of the mayor and other members of the village board.
“John Ryan approved the reduction of pay for elected officials by 25% and reduced the mayor’s salary from $100,000 to $75,000,” it said. “John Ryan will be a full-time mayor, receiving a salary of $75,000.”
Ryan won. Now, more than three years into his term and planning to run again in April, he wants a raise — to $85,000 after the next election, with yearly 2.5% raises after that.
That would be worth an additional $52,000 over four years and may ultimately mean a bigger government pension for Ryan, who was a village trustee for six years before being elected mayor.
His proposed raise was set for a vote this past week by the village board but was delayed until Monday at the request of two trustees.
“Now, you think it’s a good time to bring this up?” Trustee Mike Zielinski said at this past Monday’s village board meeting. “For this type of raise during a pandemic, when we’ve reduced our budget by millions of dollars, we have less sales taxes coming in, we have a lot of the village out of work, people that have been furloughed?
“These are the taxpayers that are going to be paying the salary,” Zielinski said. “This is a good time to do this?”
Ryan said he deserves more money because he works hard, and many of his suburban counterparts get paid more.
Besides, Ryan said, the village board raised the pay for other municipal employees, so he thinks it’s only fair that he get more money, too.
“You approved salary increases for” more than 100 municipal workers “this year, with the exception of one office, being mine,” he told the board.
Last year, Ryan was among a number of suburban Chicago mayors and other political figures interviewed by federal agents as part of an ongoing corruption investigation. Ryan, who hasn’t been charged with any crime, was questioned about his push to hire red-light-camera contractor SafeSpeed LLC.
After he was questioned, Ryan said neither he nor the village were targets of the investigation.
SafeSpeed’s efforts to do business with Alsip were put on hold.
Former state Sen. Martin Sandoval, a Chicago Democrat, has pleaded guilty to bribery and tax charges involving SafeSpeed, admitting he took payoffs to shield the red-light-camera operator from legislation that would hurt its business.
Two political operatives who also were SafeSpeed salesmen — Patrick Doherty and John O’Sullivan — helped run Ryan’s mayoral campaign in 2017.
Doherty, who had been chief of staff for former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, was charged earlier this year with conspiring to pay bribes to win approval for red-light camera deals in the suburbs.
As part of the same case, Omar Maani, a former partner in SafeSpeed, signed a deferred-prosecution agreement to resolve a bribery conspiracy charge. Maani is cooperating with authorities under a deal in which he acknowledged he provided “benefits, including campaign contributions, meals, money, and sporting-event tickets” to public officials to get business.
SafeSpeed has denied any wrongdoing and said Maani acted on his own and long ago left the company.
Tobolski, who also was the mayor of McCook until resigning, has pleaded guilty in the same wide-ranging federal corruption investigation to participating in extortion and bribery schemes and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators.