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The Watchdogs

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

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Chicago Teachers Union Inc.: How the clout-heavy labor group spends its money

We examined how the CTU uses its considerable financial muscle and found nearly $1.5 million from its dues-funded budget went to politics and lobbying over 15 months. And a union foundation cut back sharply on charitable giving.

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The U.S. government knows some household items aren’t safe but won’t tell you. Here’s why.

Consumer advocates and Rep. Bobby Rush are pushing to change a provision that helps manufacturers keep information about dangerous products from being made public.

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CHA gave $76M deal to movie studio head’s group while he was an FBI mole

Cinespace Chicago Film Studios president Alexander Pissios and his partners — The Habitat Co. and Mount Sinai Hospital — stand to share in $4 million-plus in fees on a deal Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Housing Authority appointees gave them.

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$300,000 settlement to settle sexual harassment claim against retired Chicago cop

A sexual misconduct lawsuit by Officer Kelly Hespe against retired Lt. Gerald Breimon lifted the veil on sordid allegations involving Breimon and others at the Shakespeare District.

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‘Windy City Rehab’ subcontractor sues show co-host Donovan Eckhardt, says he’s owed $109K

Subcontractor from controversial Lincoln Square rehab is now suing for $108K allegedly owed for work on another project.

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Buyers sue ‘Windy City Rehab’ stars for fraud, say $1.36M home is plagued by problems

A lawsuit filed by couple who bought Lincoln Square home says the luxury rehab leaked the day after the sale closed —and then things got even worse.

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Navy resolves “bureaucratic failures,” pays tuition for vets’ kids after Sun-Times investigation

More than 40 military families found themselves on the hook for huge, unexpected bills for college they were promised would be covered by a government plan.

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Chicago cops phonied up time of ‘first’ gun arrest of 2019, a case that made national news

The police singled out Darrell Rhyme as last year’s first gun offender, a symbol of the city’s gun problems. But the charges were dropped. And an internal probe found officers falsified the time he was busted.

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GI Bill college help came for one vet’s family but others still dealing with military’s broken promises

A Marine veteran’s daughter, faced with a sudden and crushing debt, chose not to go to law school — after being accepted and putting down a deposit — rather than face more debt. A proposal in Congress promises a fix.

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Suburban Chicago gynecologist’s strange death has left a Texas-sized mystery

Dr. George Chronis of Palos Park was found dead outside his burning home in Rains County, Texas, with burns over half his body — from after he died — and no smoke in his lungs.

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Toni Preckwinkle’s security guard got big raise in ‘error,’ told to repay part of it

Rodney Montgomery had gotten a 9.65% last year when the Cook County Board president’s guard detail was shifted to the forest preserves police — to $110,396 — though his duties didn’t change.

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Feds investigating former Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, records show

The authorities are interested in his access to private planes and boats, among other matters, according to a grand jury subpoena obtained by the Sun-Times.

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Navy fixes GI Bill error that forced student to leave DePaul and left her with $20K debt

After Sun-Times reports, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly has told a retired veteran that the debt will be waived. But others still face similar problems.

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Ex-Chicago sex-abuser priest Vincent McCaffrey free after 17 years in prison for child pornography

He also admitted he’d sexually abused more boys than he could count but wasn’t charged with those crimes because the statute of limitations had run out.

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Chicago cop reprimanded for bungling homicide case involving Daley nephew

Sgt. Sam Cirone, the last of 6 officers to face discipline for the investigation into Koschman’s death at the hands of Daley nephew Richard Vanecko, faced a one-year suspension.

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Amazon, Walmart, eBay and Buy Buy Baby say they’ll stop selling inclined sleepers linked to 73 babies’ deaths

Still, even if all sleepers eventually are banned, many of them already are in people’s homes and in daycare settings.

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After scandal, Preckwinkle shifted security detail to forest preserves police, with raises — again  

The officers’ duties didn’t change. The biggest raise went to Rodney Montgomery — 9.65%, putting his pay at $110,396, up from $100,680. He’d been hired at $97,607 in 2017.

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CTA wants answers from Chinese L car manufacturer after NBC report on child labor

The network found child-mined minerals in Madagascar ‘end up in products’ sold by companies including CRRC, which has a $1.3B deal to produce new trains for Chicago.

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How state Sen. President John Cullerton got back-door loan from clouted bank

Here’s how state Sen. President John Cullerton got $110,000 line of credit without putting up any personal assets.

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Sen. Dick Durbin: Fix ‘bureaucratic failures’ that forced Navy vet’s daughter to leave DePaul

She and her father, a decorated war hero, ‘acted honorably and in good faith, and they should not have to shoulder the burden for the Navy’s bureaucratic failures,’ senator and others write.

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More GI Bill horror stories: Vets say government reneged on promise to pay for kids’ college

After a Sun-Times report on an ex-DePaul student, others say the military told them they qualified for education benefits for their families, then said: That was wrong; pay it back.

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Operator of Summit bar that surfaced in corruption case was ‘close’ to Ed Burke operative

Mariano Martinez runs Mars Bar, faces heroin charges and goes way back with Rudy Acosta Sr., a precinct captain in the 14th Ward who’s done campaign work for state Sen. Martin Sandoval.

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In Chicago and across the Midwest, Trump’s EPA is inspecting polluters less, cutting staff

The number of people working in the federal environmental agency’s Chicago region has hit an all-time low. So has the number of inspections — down 60% since the president took office.

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Suburban businessmen linked to Ald. Carrie Austin involved in a property tax shell game

Suburban businessmen linked to a federal investigation didn’t pay taxes on properties for years, then bought up $861,000 of their own tax debts — for $26,000.

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Public weed consumption will be allowed only at dispensaries and smoke shops, not bars and restaurants

Backtracking on the law they passed last spring, Illinois lawmakers voted Thursday to sharply restrict where people will be able to consume cannabis once it becomes legal in January.

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SafeSpeed rep under federal scrutiny pushed Oak Lawn to issue more red-light-camera tickets

John O’Sullivan, who’s also a south suburban political operative, was part of an effort to pressure police to cite more drivers for violations, records and interviews show.

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Real ID? Real pain in the neck for Illinois residents trying to get one

Secretary of State’s driver’s license facilities are facing a crush of people wanting the cards. That means longer waits and long lines for everyone. And you might not even need the new ID.

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Ex-Chicago city official moonlighted for red-light camera contractor that’s part of federal probe

While Bill Helm was deputy aviation commissioner, overseeing airfield maintenance at O’Hare Airport, he also was working for SafeSpeed, LLC, and didn’t disclose that, records show.

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The Navy told him he served long enough to get his kids free college. Its math was 6 days off.

His daughter’s GI Bill-covered tuition at DePaul was cut off. Now, she and her father, a vet who served 22 years and was honored for saving 2 lives in Afghanistan, have to repay more than $20,000.

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Concerned about ‘public trust,’ Preckwinkle seeks to air out county land bank deal

The Chicago Sun-Times reported on the insider deal involving the Cook County Land Bank Authority and a building that Ald. Carrie Austin’s chief of staff owned.

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Citing deaths of 73 babies, Consumer Reports says feds’ move to ban inclined sleepers isn’t enough

"There is no reason to wait for more deaths or injuries," the advocacy group’s CEO writes. "Too many dangerous sleep products remain for sale and in use at homes and day care centers and continue to put infants at risk."

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Cook County OK’d insider deal for Ald. Carrie Austin’s top aide

Chester Wilson’s delinquent property tax tab on a South Side building topped $200K. County land bank erased that — and gave the property to a Wilson business partner for $40,000.