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The Watchdogs

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

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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.

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Berrios in-law pushes to legalize sweepstakes machines while running PAC tied to Madigan

James T. Weiss runs the Alliance of Illinois Taxpayers, which raises hundreds of thousands of dollars largely from law firms allied with the Illinois House speaker.

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Speaker Madigan’s son got Alsip business, hit up mayor for campaign cash for his dad

A fundraising invitation for an event benefiting Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan came as Andrew Madigan’s insurance firm was angling for business from the south suburb.

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Feds’ mole’s disappearing debt

Chicago TV/movie studio mogul Alexander S. Pissios was on the hook for more than $1 million when he began cooperating in a corruption case that took down a Teamsters boss. Now, he no longer owes that money.

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Turned away: Some Chicago hospitals still routinely divert ambulances from ERs despite dangers

Illinois authorities are supposed to investigate each ‘bypass,’ following the death of a Chicago infant 30 years ago. But that isn’t happening. And state oversight is lax.

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Carbon monoxide from portable generators is a killer. Has enough been done to stop it?

There are no mandatory safety standards, even though emissions have killed nearly 1,000 people nationwide since 2005, including a Morgan Park woman and a Merrillville, Indiana family.

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Southwest suburbs that feds visited use insurance broker where Madigan’s son is an exec

Alliant/Mesirow Insurance Services and company executive Andrew Madigan add an intriguing link to people federal authorities appear to be interested in.

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The clout-heavy ex-city worker and his ties to a ballooning corruption investigation

You’ve probably never heard of Bill Helm. But federal investigators sure have, as they seek information about him in warrants targeting state Sen. Martin Sandoval and the village of McCook.

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‘Many’ to be charged in clout-heavy Chicago bank’s failure after massive fraud

‘The number of defendants would be many more,’ a prosecutor says of the collapsed Washington Federal Bank for Savings in Bridgeport, where many customers had ties to the Daley family and the 11th Ward Democratic Party.

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Tesla’s disappearing miles: Owners say automatic software fix has had unwanted side effects

The electric carmaker’s update after a series of car fires has also cut into how far vehicles go without a recharge and lengthened charging time, complaints and lawsuit say.

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Consumer Product Safety Commission: No more inclined sleepers

The federal agency is proposing a ban on the popular products, which have been implicated in 64 baby deaths nationwide.

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Mysterious Chicago cop death: Detective, sergeant suspended for ‘incompetent’ investigation

But the cop who took charge can’t be disciplined. He quit while facing firing for helping keep ex-Mayor Daley’s nephew from being charged in David Koschman’s killing.

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Caught on tape: Ex-Ald. Danny Solis sought money from Jerry Reinsdorf group

With the FBI listening, the alderman brushed off an aide’s concerns that it might be a problem asking for campaign money from Bulls and White Sox owner’s development team that was seeking his help at City Hall.

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SBA settles for cents on the dollar with CPA who bankrolled City Hall deals that enriched Daley’s son

Patrick Daley got more than $1.2 million from Joseph M. McInerney’s Cardinal Growth venture capital fund between 2002 and 2009, documents obtained by the Sun-Times show.

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Trouble with Tesla: Couple were sold a damaged car, then told they can’t sue

When their new $110,000 car arrived from Chicago, it had been repaired and repainted to cover undisclosed damage. The case highlights the difficulty in dealing with the high-end automaker’s secretive arbitration system.

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Security firm for Chicago’s biggest LGBTQ center is owned by cop accused in racist incident, records show

The Center on Halsted paid more than $130,000 last year to Walsh Security, run by Officer Thomas Walsh, a 19th district Chicago cop who was accused of attacking a black security guard in 2013 and using a racial slur.

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Fighting gun violence in Chicago with trees, rakes and cleanup crews

The city is spending millions to beautify the public spaces where shootings are most likely to occur. It’s a strategy research has found can help fight crime as well as neighborhood blight.

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A database of FBI files on people with Chicago and Illinois ties

The Sun-Times has compiled a database of FBI records on notable people with ties to Illinois, including politicians, gangsters and religious leaders. Keep checking back for updates.

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2 aldermen fronted measures for embattled Ald. Edward Burke that benefit his law clients

Patrick Daley Thompson and Michael Zalewski put their names on moves that would bring millions of dollars in property tax breaks to businesses that hired the now-indicted Southwest Side alderman.

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FBI files shed light on nearly a century of threats to Chicago politicians — and an alderman suspected of being a secret communist

The ire that’s been directed over the years at political figures in Illinois often has been about race, patriotism and gun control, according to a new Sun-Times database compiled from FBI reports.

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FBI records reveal one Catholic bishop’s views on race, another’s taste for angel food cake

The agency kept tabs on Chicago Cardinal John Cody and his views on MLK, and its files on Catholic Bishop Fulton Sheen were filled with details about what he did, the people he saw and even what he liked to eat.

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Auction date set for properties once controlled by Rev. Leon Finney Jr.

It will feature 15 properties across the South Side owned by the Woodlawn Community Development Corporation, which is now in bankruptcy.

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Lori Lightfoot orders review of Rev. Leon Finney Jr.’s ‘significant portfolio’ of CHA buildings

The mayor called the South Side minister ‘an iconic person’ who has ‘done good work over the course of his life’ and said his downfall is ‘clearly disappointing.’