As one of 50 aldermen, Bob Fioretti could rail against Mayor Rahm Emanuel, cast his votes in the City Council – and pretty much avoid the most intense scrutiny.
Now, as the first potentially serious challenger to the mayor’s re-election bid, Fioretti also must account for whatever is packed away in the baggage he’s brought with him to the February 2015 election campaign.
There were the two former Fioretti staffers who didn’t get paid in full for working on Fioretti’s 2007 aldermanic bid until filing complaints with the state Labor Department – a story told here last month.
And it turns out the problems with that campaign ran far deeper than the cases of the stiffed staffers. Documents filed by the treasurer of Fioretti’s own political committee paint a vivid picture of an amateurish campaign.
In a November 2008 letter to state elections officials, newly appointed treasurer John Jacoby wrote that it was impossible to completely account for all the contributions Fioretti received for his campaign the previous year. Nor could Jacoby provide a full accounting of how Fioretti’s campaign had spent those contributions.
“Records were incomplete and disorganized and there was no ability to determine the accuracy of the information” that had been provided to the state election board under Fioretti’s previous treasurer, Jacoby wrote.
Fioretti accepted contributions that were not reported to the state, according to Jacoby’s letter.
Campaign expenditures could not be tracked either, he said, despite the efforts of a forensic accountant. The inquiry “discovered a number of transactions that involved cash” and were not reported to the state initially, according to the letter to the state.
Fioretti’s 2007 campaign shelled out cash to “a substantial number of field workers,” Jacoby wrote. “Nevertheless, we have no records to match the amounts disbursed to any specific individuals.”
The magnitude of the errors was huge. After winning the election, Fioretti’s campaign had reported receiving about $356,000 in contributions and spending nearly $552,000 to unseat Ald. Madeline Haithcock.
Amended reports filed with the state indicated that the Fioretti 2007 campaign actually had raised and spent close to $1 million.
The situation was so bad that the original “Fioretti for Aldermen” campaign committee was dissolved and a new fund called “Friends of Bob Fioretti” replaced it.
Fioretti acknowledges there were problems.
“We learned along the way,” he says.
He says he appreciates the need for full transparency in political campaigns and doesn’t expect similar problems with his mayoral run.
“I think we have a very good team in place,” Fioretti says.
Beyond his record in the City Council — where he has voted against Emanuel’s wishes as often as almost any alderman — the only history voters can really judge him on is how he ran his campaigns for aldermen and a long career as a lawyer.
As with his campaigns, there’s some baggage from his legal career, too. Fioretti says he still practices but the firm where he was a name partner has closed its doors.
Two former colleagues from that firm sued him, saying they are owed money. Three years later, the case is ongoing in Cook County court.
Fioretti says he is trying to make good on the firm’s debts.
“I’m surprised he said that,” says Charles Brizzolara, one of the former colleagues suing Fioretti. “He certainly didn’t try with us.”
In this city of yes men and women, it’s not common for anyone to stand up to the mayor. Many Emanuel critics who want anybody but the incumbent already have shown they are eager to overlook any blots on Fioretti’s record.
To become a serious candidate to replace the man he’s eagerly and repeatedly defied, though, it wouldn’t hurt for Fioretti to account for much more than how often he voted “no” in the City Council.