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The Watchdogs

Investigations of government, politicians, education, business and pocketbook issues affecting taxpayers and consumers.

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Citing Sun-Times report, Rush is pushing to mandate safety standards for portable generators

Gas-powered portable generators emit deadly carbon monoxide and have been blamed for more than 1,000 deaths since 2005, including that of a Morgan Park woman.

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Dead-end drug arrests in Chicago and drug law reforms: a Sun-Times/BGA special report

The Chicago Sun-Times and Better Government Association teamed up to investigate the city’s dead-end drug arrests and what can be done to help drug users and their communities. Here’s what we found.

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The costly toll of dead-end drug arrests — a Sun-Times / BGA special report

In Chicago, thousands of drug possession arrests are routinely tossed out every year, a Chicago Sun-Times-Better Government Association investigation finds. The cost to taxpayers? Millions. To those arrested? The loss of jobs, housing, freedom.

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Oregon’s the first state to ticket narcotics users, but reform has yet to live up to what was promised

In Illinois, possessing even traces of heroin residue is a felony. In Oregon, it’s just a ticket. That state’s new drug reform is keeping users out of jail — but getting them help for addictions has been elusive.

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Kim Foxx’s ex-trainer caught up in ‘unending cycle’ of drug arrests; ‘It breaks my heart’

The Cook County state’s attorney recently learned her former physical trainer is addicted to heroin and has been in and out of jail for it.

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High-interest loans in Chicago target Black neighborhoods

‘Statistical significance on steroids’ shows payday borrowers mostly lived in majority-Black ZIP codes.

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Illinois OSHA to CPS: Investigate and show you’ve cleaned up filthy Southwest Side school

Eberhart Elementary reported ‘deplorable conditions, especially the bathrooms and classrooms since there is no or very little janitorial staff,’ the Sun-Times has learned.

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Studio head who helped bring down Teamsters boss tied to illegal gambling ring

Already linked to two big federal cases, Cinespace Chicago Film Studios’ Alex Pissios also owed money to Vincent DelGiudice, who’s pleaded guilty to running a gambling ring with ties to a mob-connected bookie.

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Chicago used the water supply as revenue, then punished those who can’t afford the cost

Tens of thousands of Chicago homeowners — most in majority-Black ZIP codes — are collectively $421 million in debt for a resource they can’t live without.

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Catholic order found California abuse complaint credible, then moved priest to Chicago, by schools

Rev. Timothy Keppel ended up living next to two Chicago-area schools, records show. His Resurrectionist order didn’t tell either about the accusations he faced. The order also has had other credibly accused clerics living in Chicago.

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For parks aquatics boss, firing over Chicago lifeguards scandal a hard fall from the family business

Eric Fischer, one in a family of lifeguards, started with a glamor gig at Oak Street Beach. He was fired after being accused of ignoring a complaint involving one of his daughters, also a lifeguard at Oak Street Beach.

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Attorney general tried to delay parole for man convicted of 23-shot killing of Chicago teen in 1972

Newly released minutes also show who on the Illinois Prisoner Review Board voted to free Raymond Larsen after years of denials. Larsen’s parole was revoked after he went on the lam.

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GI Bill snafus widespread and longstanding, long-secret whistleblower investigation finds

Bureaucratic errors could mean reservists got shorted on service time needed to qualify to transfer valuable college benefits to their kids. The whistleblower says ‘hundreds of thousands’ of veterans might have wrongly lost out.

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Indicted alderman taps clout contractor on city-financed Bridgeport project as a character witness

Patrick Daley Thompson’s friend Michael Meagher is president of McHugh Construction, which is restoring the old Ramova Theatre with City Hall’s financial backing.

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CPS facilities chief out amid dirty schools complaints

Clarence Carson leaves less than a week after the Sun-Times revealed conditions so bad at a Southwest Side elementary school that teachers and administrators took to mops and brooms themselves.

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At Chicago elementary school, staff, moms, kids step in when CPS can’t keep school clean

After weeks of problems at Eberhart Elementary on the Southwest Side, CPS finally sent a substitute custodian — after Sun-Times reporters asked about the filth.

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Illinois Iraq War vet with PTSD wins class-action suit to upgrade discharge, get VA benefits

Tyson Manker’s case also could help thousands of other vets with post-traumatic stress disorder try to upgrade less-than-honorable discharges and get benefits.

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Downtown shootings up 220%, biggest spike in city: ‘People are fed up’

The economic and cultural hub has seen the most shootings in years in 2021. The rise mirrors a citywide violent crime wave and threatens downtown’s recovery.

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As violent crime soars in Chicago, ‘safety gap’ among neighborhoods widens

West Garfield Park, the city’s most dangerous community area, has seen a rate of shootings nearly 20 times higher than downtown, a Sun-Times analysis finds. The gap is even higher with six other police districts on the North Side.

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4 involved in failed Broadway Bank backing Alexi Giannoulias’ run for secretary of state

His political career was derailed by the collapse of his family’s bank. Now, he’s taken campaign money from four officials who ran the bank whose shutdown cost the FDIC $383 million.

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Clout-heavy janitorial company sues City Hall to hang onto lucrative O’Hare deal

Rick Simon’s United Maintenance says it’s being pushed out and that city officials plan to bring in ABM Industries, Inc., which has faced accusations of not protecting female janitors.

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Chicago cop who accused ex-Supt. Eddie Johnson of sexual harassment seeking on-duty disability checks, citing PTSD

Cynthia Donald also is suing Johnson in federal court, saying he made her have unwanted sex with him for three years in his headquarters office and on out-of-town work trips.

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City clerk running for secretary of state got 2 contributions from trucking exec linked to government mole

Anna Valencia says she has no ‘personal connection to William Pacella or his company. . . . Given that Mr. Pacella has been a supporter of Democratic campaigns in the past, he was a part of our early donor outreach efforts.’

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Cook County carjackings on pace to be the worst in 2 decades: Camry is No. 1, most victims are men, Sunday’s the worst day

The numbers, bad last year, are more than 43% worse this year. Sheriff Tom Dart’s office has created a database to make sense of why. Some of the findings are surprising.

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Kaegi is giving tax breaks to vets on pricey homes even though they don’t qualify

So some get big tax breaks despite being ineligible. The Cook County assessor says he’s following the policy on the disabled vets property tax exemption his predecessor set.

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You pay more in property taxes because 27,288 Cook County homeowners pay nothing

As disabled vets, Sen. Tammy Duckworth and former Ald. James Balcer are among those with tax bills of $0. Income isn’t a factor in getting the tax break for disabled vets. In some states, it is.

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Complaint that state official pushed for Trump tax break ruled ‘unfounded’

But the Illinois Office of Executive Inspector General also found Mauro Glorioso improperly deleted emails and other files on the case and said he shouldn’t be rehired by the state.

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Camp run by Catholic religious order had 5 staffers later accused of child sex abuse

Camp Tivoli, run by Norbertine priests in Wisconsin for more than 50 years, attracted numerous children from the Chicago region. It also attracted clergy as counselors and administrators who were alleged child molesters.

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Chicago banker, lawyer who served 5 governors rejected for state gambling license

The Illinois Gaming Board rejected former Illinois Tollway board member James J. Banks for the coveted license, saying his ‘business and social associations . . . would discredit or tend to discredit the Illinois gaming industry.’

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Ex-cop gets probation for off-duty beating outside Andersonville bar

Erik Elkins, 47, also has to perform 40 hours of community service and is banned from working in law enforcement.

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The FTC can get money back for duped consumers after all, Chicago federal judge rules

The agency is still trying to recover $5.2 million for apartment-hunters who say they were duped into paying unwanted credit-monitoring fees to Credit Bureau Center.

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Chicago teams are betting on a Daley to win City Hall OK for ‘sports book’ wagering at arenas

Cook County Commissioner John Daley’s son is lobbying the Chicago City Council to approve sports betting at or near Sox park, Wrigley Field, Soldier Field and the United Center.