City Hall braces for city clerk's possible resignation

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Chicago's City Hall is bracing for the possible resignation of city clerk James Laski. It comes as federal authorities intensify their investigation into Laski's alleged involvement in the Hired Truck scandal.

The feds, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, are putting the squeeze on city clerk Jim Laski, who reportedly made incriminating statements to a close associate who was wearing a wire to secretly record conversations. In fact, two of Laski's closest associates are said to be cooperating with the feds in an effort to save their own hides. As a result, Laski may be facing criminal charges.

Laski is also talking about resigning as city clerk, according to the Sun-Time, and that, along with the speculation about possible successors, was the talk of the town at City Hall Wednesday.

The city clerk is supposed to be at meetings of the Chicago City Council but Jim Laski was a no-show Wednesday, and longtime colleagues won't be surprised if he steps down permanently.

"Jim is going to make the decision to step down at some point, assuming it's in the best interest of himself and his family. It's an unfortunate circumstance, but it's probably the right decision," said Ald. Pat O'Connor, 40th Ward.

The 52-year-old Laski was an alderman from the Southwest Side before winning the first of three terms as city clerk in 1995 on a ticket headed by Mayor Daley.

Laski survived a series of scandals and controversies over the years, but now he is apparently caught up in the Hired Truck investigation for allegedly trying to help a friend and co-worker with a trucking company get city business by leaning on Donald Tomczak, a former Water Department official who has already admitted that he accepted bribes and kickbacks in exchange for city contracts.

"I think everybody is surprised," said Mayor Richard Daley.

But no one is surprised at the revelation that at least one of Laski's closest associates wore a wire for the feds to secretly record conversations with Laski.

"You have to learn how to speak sign language around here, because everything is being recorded," said Ald. Bill Beavers, 7th Ward.

Some of the Latino aldermen said Wednesday that if Laski does resign Daley should appoint a Latino to replace him.

"It would behoove the administration to make sure that executive leadership of the city reflects the city. Should it be a Latino? It needs to be a qualified Latino," said Ald. Ricardo Munoz, 22nd Ward.

"No office is for one group at all. We look at the quality of people that we have and put them in different departments," said the mayor.

Daley and Laski have frequently been at odds over various issues, in part because Laski's been angling to move up the political ladder, so Daley won't mind an opportunity to name a replacement, perhaps a Latino, if Laski does resign.

Laski, his lawyer and the US attorney are all refusing to comment on the Sun-Times story, but according to the Times, Laski would only resign if he can keep his city pension, which is probably close to $100,000 a year.

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