AUGUST 26, 2008
After nearly 50 years in office, the mayor of a tiny northwest Chicago suburb has resigned amid federal corruption charges for accepting bribes throughout nearly half of his lengthy tenure.
Elected mayor of Niles Illinois in 1961, Nicholas Blase was arrested at his home in 2006 and accused of using his office to steer local business owners to purchase insurance through an agency that paid him nearly half a million dollars in kickbacks.
Federal authorities say the veteran politician illegally abused his public office for at least 17 years but probably more. The owner of the insurance agency that bribed the mayor was also criminally charged in the scheme, which authorities say robbed numerous local businesses in the municipality of about 30,000 located 15 miles north of downtown Chicago.
With his federal corruption trial originally scheduled for early September, the 80-year-old mayor resigned abruptly this week. In a statement posted on the official Niles government web site, Blase said he is tired and is retiring early so other mayoral candidates can start campaigning without wondering if he’s running again. He added that it’s been an honor to serve the community and its employees.
The farewell letter fails to mention the pending corruption trial which was mysteriously cancelled this week by federal prosecutors, perhaps as the parties work out a plea bargain that probably includes the resignation. Blase has pleaded not guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion charges.
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