FEBRUARY 17, 2009
Keeping with the state’s strong culture of corruption, a veteran lawmaker in Illinois’ largest city will be sentenced this week for accepting bribes from a developer in exchange for her support on building projects in her poor and crime-infested district.
Disgraced Chicago Alderman Arenda Troutman is the latest of many politicians in the notoriously corrupt state to go to jail for abusing her public office. Initially denying her crimes ("Folk in my community understand there can be false allegations when there is someone who is the voice of the people."), Troutman eventually pleaded guilty to federal mail and tax fraud charges for soliciting cash bribes from developers to back their South Side projects.
Troutman was arrested and charged in 2007 for taking a $5,000 cash bribe and agreeing to an additional $10,000 to help the developer move forward on the public project and prosecutors say she took at least $21,000 in bribes over the years. She faces up to five years in prison and has the dubious honor of being the 12th Chicago alderman convicted of a crime in the last 20 years.
In her lengthy plea agreement Troutman admitted it was the general practice in her office to direct staffers to solicit donations from developers seeking to do business in her ward. She regularly offered zoning changes and alley access to city-owned property for cash but also threatened to delay and intercept projects if she didn’t get paid.
Troutman is simply the latest on the Prairie State’s long list of crooked politicians. In fact, public corruption has for years been so pervasive that the state’s largest newspaper recently published an editorial declaring a campaign against the Illinois “culture of political sleaze.” The piece lists several examples of public corruption and accuses all Illinoisans of not asking enough integrity from public officials, laws and the people paid to enforce them.
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