Friday, February 14, 2014

Is Harvey IL the new Mena AR?

Chicago Tribune reporters Joseph Ryan, Joe Mahr and Matthew Walberg did a series on Harvey IL, a south suburb of Chicago.  In the course of reading these articles, one notes Harvey IL bears a striking resemblance to Mena AR.  Read more about Mena here at What Really Happened (Michael Rivero).

The Trib's series started on February 8, 2014 with "Victims, statistics show serious deficiencies in Harvey police work."

From the article:
It's a suburb that commissioned an audit that ripped its Police Department's detective work, and then promoted the head of the detective bureau.
It's a community where officers can keep their guns and badges despite questionable conduct highlighted in scandal after scandal.

The Harvey Police Department audit which excoriates the police and town can be found here.

Then on 10 February 2014 the Tribune ran 2 articles:  In Harvey, who polices the police? and Some Harvey police have controversial records.

From "who polices the police:"

On a patch of land near the Tri-State Tollway, trees were bulldozed so trucks could pile mounds of waste up to 22 feet high.
Within months, the brush and meadow gave way to dirt piles mixed with oil, broken bricks, asphalt, plastic tubes and concrete with protruding metal bars — all a block away from a strip of homes.
The state deemed the dump illegal. The landowner who let it happen was a Harvey police officer.
The same officer had already been found by a federal jury to have shot a teen in the back without cause and lied to cover it up.
Neither case led the state to yank the officer's gun and badge.
This is Illinois, where the state-imposed ethical standards for a cosmetologist are far higher than those for a cop.

And this:
In charge of them was a chief who once testified that he wasn't sure whether he drove home drunk from bowling one night but did remember that he was detained that night and then a fellow chief intervened to get him home with no charges.
Above them all was a mayor who used his clout to become a certified police officer. The state has allowed him to carry a gun and a badge even after he repeatedly invoked his right to remain silent when questioned about his alleged role in helping to arm a killer.
All of the allegations are contained in public records. Many are included in sworn statements.

The Trib followed up on that article the same day, expounding on police with controversial records:
Officer Marcus Patterson
Charged by his former police employer, Bolingbrook, with misdemeanor theft and assault, Patterson beat the charges in court and started with Harvey.
He rose to become the department's top ethics officer, despite records showing a girlfriend in Romeoville accused him of abuse and a woman in a Posen bar accused him of spying on her in a bathroom.
He avoided charges then, as well as on two traffic stops in Midlothian where an officer said he suspected him of drunken driving and reported finding open alcohol. The first time the officer let Patterson go. The second time the officer gave him a $40 ticket for expired plates. (To view the squad car video, go to
Patterson later did get demoted for causing a crash in a Harvey car with alcohol in his system, records show, but was given a commendation last year — before another girlfriend accused him in civil court of abuse.

The article outlines the work histories of several more Harvey police officers.

Like Officer Darnell Keel:
Another officer alleged Keel was siding with one drug gang by ordering illegal arrests of their rivals, according to court records. Another said he saw Keel beat two suspects who were kneeling, facing a concrete wall. Keel had so many complaints from citizens, one officer said, internal affairs called them the "Keel Chronicles," court records show.

On 11 February 2014 the Trib reported "State, feds turned blind eye to problems in Harvey:"
His his first term was coming to a close, Kellogg was hit with headlines that said his police didn't solve any homicides in 2005, and the numbers hadn't improved much in 2006. City Council members revolted, asking in vain for state police to audit the local force.
Soon state and county investigators marched into police headquarters and seized records and evidence related to dozens of unsolved crimes. By then, Harvey's violent crime rate had jumped 30 percent over Kellogg's first full year in office.
Amid all that, Kellogg asked voters for a second term.

But he needed help.  Ryan, Mahr, and Walberg continue:
Harvey Good Government Group, created in 2007, by Carlos Vargas, who happens to be an undercover FBI agent.
Vargas (not his real name) had been placed in a local strip club to investigate corruption. And for reasons federal officials won't discuss, records show the agent formed a special political committee and primed it with about $140,000. The committee then flooded the crucial 2007 mayoral race with money that helped Kellogg to victory, even as federal agents were probing the mayor's police department.
The FBI's involvement — uncovered in this Tribune investigation — set the stage for a series of actions by state and federal agencies that preserved the status quo and masked problems in Harvey.
After the undercover federal agent aided Kellogg's campaign, another powerful federal agency came in to document systemic problems in his police department — only to leave without forcing reforms.
Court records would later reveal that Vargas was an undercover FBI agent with about a dozen assignments under his belt, working national security, public corruption and organized crime cases — though few knew that at the time.
His cover: the new manager helping remodel the Skybox strip club on Halsted Street. The club was owned by Michael Wellek, who became an FBI informant at some point after IRS agents seized $12 million in cash from a warehouse he controlled in 2003, according to court records.
At the same time that Justice officials did not force reform, state officials were failing to enforce a key law that would have exposed how the city's finances had started to spiral out of control.
Illinois law requires cities and villages to hire licensed auditors to go through their books and release an annual report that sheds light on their financial state. It's meant to ensure public finances are readily known and aboveboard.
Harvey stopped producing the audits in Kellogg's second term, saying they were too expensive.
[Ed. note:  This next item I find particularly hilarious as it shows that there is no honor among thieves.]
The state says Harvey stopped paying into its police and fire pension funds, paying just $140 toward $7.3 million owed over a three-year period. The back payments owed have reached about $10 million.

On 12 February 2014 Walberg and Mahr report "Harvey problems prompt sheriff to seek audit powers."
Citing a Tribune series this week that exposed a litany of problems in south suburban Harvey, Sheriff Tom Dart is asking the County Board to let him become a suburb's inspector general if that municipality has failed to file two consecutive years of financial audits as required by state law. As inspector general, he would be able to audit nearly every aspect of that suburb's government, from policing to spending.
Dart's office said four other suburbs could qualify as well: Country Club Hills, Dixmoor, Maywood and Sauk Village.

The 13 February 2014 edition had "Harvey, Ill - A city abused and ignored."
Even though Harvey's City Council members bucked their mayor as early as 2006 and asked the Illinois State Police to audit their police department and advise the suburb on how to better protect the streets — a request reinforced by then-U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who had spoken of the city's "dire public safety debacle" — nothing much happened. A spokeswoman told the Tribune the state police aren't geared to evaluate the competence of local departments.

And there it is.  One of the comments on the last article asks:
Brian Vuolo ·
"...We tolerate Harvey as is because getting involved would be a boatload of trouble. There's nothing in it for us..."
I wonder what it is about Harvey that scares bureaucrats and politicians from investigating and prosecuting elected officials and city employees.

I wonder how much Harvey has in common with Mena AR.


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