MIHALOPOULOS: After ouster, Ald. Austin’s son back on city payroll
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
Chicago aldermen rarely get angrier than when their own flesh and blood face scrutiny from City Hall’s inspector general.
After an internal investigation forced her son Kenny to quit his job with the city last year, Ald. Carrie Austin — one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s most important City Council allies — cussed like she was the mayor himself.
“That’s what the inspector general wanted because it’s my son,” Austin said, maintaining her son’s innocence in a crash involving a city vehicle. “I’m sick and tired of this f—— city witch-hunting my g——- family.”
Austin now has decided to put your taxpayer dollars where her uncensored mouth was.
The influential alderman recently arranged for Kenny Austin, 51, to become the new Streets and Sanitation superintendent for her 34th Ward, on the Far South Side.
A spokeswoman for the Emanuel administration says Kenny Austin started at the $73,212 a year job on Monday.
His new pay is a modest raise from the $72,384 annual salary he was getting as a Streets and San laborer — the job he had before an investigation by Inspector General Joe Ferguson prompted him to quit 14 months ago.
I found Kenny Austin on the job at the Streets and San faciliity on 103rd Street before dawn on Wednesday. He didn’t want to discuss the new spot his mom got him on the city payroll.
“I don’t talk to the Sun-Times,” he said, and walked away as another Streets and San man told me I had to leave the premises immediately.
Last year, this newspaper reported Kenny Austin quit after Ferguson’s office concluded that he crashed a city vehicle while driving on a suspended license and had a co-worker cover for him, to avoid taking a mandatory drug test.
The inspector general said Kenny Austin violated personnel rules by driving on a suspended license, failing to report the crash and falsely claiming that the other city worker in the car actually was the driver at the time of the incident. Drug tests are required for city drivers in on-duty accidents.
Back then, Kenny Austin’s mom said, “My son didn’t do any of that.” Carrie Austin told Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman that her Kenny wasn’t the driver in the 2012 crash and that his co-worker was the one who had lied to Ferguson’s office.
Ferguson called for Kenny Austin to be punished severely, and the city was about to fire him. By resigning before the city canned him, Kenny Austin avoided landing on the city’s “do not hire” list.
A city official said Kenny Austin “resigned under inquiry.” Had he been fired instead, he wouldn’t have been able to accept the new gig as mom’s ward sup.
The veteran alderman — who has led the Council’s Budget Committee since Emanuel became mayor — didn’t answer my calls about her son’s new city job.
But Kenny Austin’s work woes may not be over. He lacks a vital credential for the new position.
Records from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office show he doesn’t have a valid driver’s license. State officials say Kenny Austin’s license was suspended again in December 2015, for failure to make child support payments, and he hasn’t had a license in nearly two years.
The spokeswoman for Streets and San says every ward sup must have a valid driver’s license. It’s a job requirement, but she did not say how Kenny Austin got hired without a license.
As for Carrie Austin, let’s just say many politicians can secure government jobs with a good salary and great benefits for their family and friends. But it takes real clout to serve up another chance for someone who has fouled up already.