The Stephens' Succession
April 25, 2007 (WLS) -- Who will replace Rosemont's one and only mayor, Don Stephens, who served 51 years before dying in office last week? Investigative reporter Chuck Goudie has been looking into Rosemont's future and whether the new leadership is already a done deal.
When Don Stephens was buried on Monday, mourners marked it as the end of an era in the kingdom of Rosemont. While it is unlikely anyone will ever surpass Stephens' political longevity, it appears that Rosemont's royal bloodline -- the Stephens family -- will remain firmly on the throne of power in Chicago's most autocratic suburb.
While Don Stephens is gone, his aisle seat at the Rosemont Theatre won't even have to be relettered. Early next month, the village board in Rosemont will install trustee Bradley Stephens, the late mayor's son, as his replacement, according to Rosemont insiders.
"We want Rosemont to be the Disneyland of the north..."
Forty-four-year-old Brad Stephens has been pinch-hitting as his father battled stomach cancer and would serve out the remaining three years of his father's term. In Don Stephens' final interview last December, as we drove around Rosemont, he all but anointed son Brad as the next mayor.
"After I step out he'll get a shot at it. If he doesn't do well, that's the end," Don Stephens said.
Grandson Chris, who currently runs the Don Stephens Convention Center, and several others relatives are expected to fill the power vacuum, including the clout-heavy Leyden Township Republican committeeman post that Don Stephens held for almost 20 years, slating candidates and raising millions for campaigns. A Stephens could be appointed as early as next week.
"A good government arrangement would not permit that type of nepotism in which a family or extended family holds all the positions of authority. What I've been able to determine, they are tied to Stephens family in every position, it is not a healthy situation in anyway," said James Wagner, Chicago Crime Commission.
Wagner investigated Stephens and Rosemont for the Illinois Gaming Board and as longtime head of the FBI's organized crime squad in Chicago.
"I don't think it can be disputed there was a connection and it started with Giancana," said Wagner.
That would be Sam Giancana, omnipotent outfit boss in 1961, when Stephens bought a motel from the man they called "Momo." Stephens claimed he bought it to oust the outfit.
"I didn't know Giancana, I had no interest in Giancana," said in a December 2006 interview with the I-Team.
"The position law enforcement had was how and when he paid it off and under what terms. No one ever knew," Wagner said.
To his death Stephens denied mob ties, despite business deals with Nick Boscarino, giving a city job to Anthony Daddino -- both linked by authorities to the outfit. Questions also were raised about his and Rosemont's 40-year investment relationship with Parkway Bank after two bank executives turned up as secret investors in a mob-connected casino, executives who also made sizable campaign donations to Stephens.
Ironically, it was just today that one of them, Jeff Suspenzi, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for embezzlement from Parkway Bank, a half million he stole to pay off mob bookies. What does any of this mean for Rosemont now that don Stephens is dead?
"The point the Chicago Crime Commission would make is that the lessons from law enforcement show that the intrusion of organized crime in businesses does not end. If they are in business in Rosemont they are not going to leave, they are going to remain," said Wagner.
Donald E. Stephens was buried with a clean legal record. In fact, the highlight of his life, he told the I-Team, was that he beat the feds on two occasions when they prosecuted him for fraud and tax violations in the early 1980s.
Thursday, our print partner, The Daily Herald, will have more on the embezzlement case of that former Parkway Bank executive.
Members of the Stephens family declined comment.
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