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Sometimes frustration-fueled persistence can pay off, even just a little bit, when facing the headwinds of government bureaucracy.
That seems to be the lesson a former employee at Tank Noodle restaurant in Uptown learned after complaining to Chicago, state and federal labor agencies about unpaid wages at the Vietnamese eatery in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, the Tribune’s Louisa Chu writes. In the end, a U.S. Department of Labor probe resulted in the restaurant agreeing to pay $700,000 in back wages to 60 current and former employees. The former employee who triggered the probe walked away with just over $2,500.
The Tribune’s Megan Crepeau reports that a prosecutor’s misleading description of the Chicago police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo during a court hearing was the result of a communication breakdown at the top levels of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office, an internal investigation found.
The faulty statement by prosecutor James Murphy in court last month — suggesting Adam had a gun in his hand the moment he was shot — drew loud criticism from those who said they believed this was a way for prosecutors to give the officer cover. It also resulted in two weeks of administrative leave for Murphy, who has since returned to his post.
Foxx won’t say whether there’s any link between the findings and her announcement earlier in the day about the exit of her top lieutenant.
My colleague, ace federal courts reporter Jason Meisner, has been closely watching, as he described on Twitter recently, “the feds continue to drive their corruption Zamboni all over the state of Illinois.”
Today he reports that Michael Madigan was the elephant in the federal courtroom as lawyers for four people charged with conspiring to bribe the former Illinois House speaker on behalf of utility giant Commonwealth Edison said they expect more charges soon in the bombshell case.
And there’s late-breaking news on that front. Meisner and Ray Long are reporting that several former lawmakers were called before a federal grand jury in recent days to talk about Madigan and his control of the legislative process, according to sources. More below.
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The Tribune’s Louisa Chu writes: “It took two years, three complaints to city, state and federal agencies, countless phone calls and hours aiding investigators.
“In the end, one former employee of Tank Noodle spurred a federal investigation resulting in nearly $700,000 in back wages paid to 60 employees of the Vietnamese restaurant in the Uptown neighborhood. After cooperating with officials and staying at the job under their advice, the ex-employee was left with a check for back wages totaling $2,644.81 — and plenty of lingering questions.
“Tank Noodle has faced criticism as news broke in recent months about the unpaid wages. And as exploitative work conditions remain a systemic issue in the dining industry, the former employee — who requested anonymity for themselves and their partner out of fear they would face harassment as Asian immigrants tied up in a labor dispute — raised concerns about road blocks they continuously faced as they tried to get help from officials who passed them along from one agency to the next.”
The former employee filed a complaint with the state Department of Labor and Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. Concerned about inaction, the staffer then went to the U.S. Department of Labor to complain. Full story, including questions over the restaurant receiving federal pandemic aid, here.
Trump rally: Chu also notes “the restaurant became the subject of national controversy earlier this year when owners, and their family employed as restaurant managers, posted photos of themselves online attending the Jan. 6 “Save America” rally led by then-President Donald Trump. Some of the attendees went on to be part of the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Kim Foxx says her office’s ‘checks and balances’ didn’t work before faulty in-court statement on Adam Toledo shooting
The Tribune’s Crepeau writes, “A misleading description of 13-year-old Adam Toledo’s fatal shooting by police was given in court by a prosecutor because of a communication breakdown at top levels of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office, an internal investigation found.”
Foxx told the Tribune in an interview: “The checks and balances that should have been in place for someone to be able to review, to ensure that what was being said in court aligned with the information that the office had, it didn’t work.”
Crepeau goes on to note, “The prosecutor who gave the inadvertently faulty statement in court last month, James Murphy, was restored to his position after about two weeks of administrative leave, according to a news release Wednesday making the investigation’s findings public. Murphy “did not intend to give the impression” that Toledo was holding a gun at the precise moment he was shot, the news release stated.”
High ranking staffer exits: Shortly before the findings were released, rank-and-file prosecutors received an email from Foxx announcing the resignation of her second-in-command, Jennifer Coleman, a 26-year veteran of the office who was named first assistant about five months ago. Coleman knew details of the case, putting her in a position to ensure what was presented in court was detailed and accurate. Full story here.
Foxx said she had not watched the gruesome video of police shooting and killing Toledo ahead of the hearing.
Comings and goings in Lightfoot administration: Mayor’s new deputy mayor for public safety sided with cops in controversial cases
The Tribune’s Jeremy Gorner and Gregory Pratt write, “Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s new deputy mayor for public safety is a former No. 2 for the U.S. Marshals Service in Chicago, whose time on the city’s police disciplinary panel included siding with officers accused of misconduct in some high-profile cases, including one involved in the alleged cover-up of Laquan McDonald’s murder.
“Lightfoot announced her hire of John O’Malley to be deputy mayor for public safety on Wednesday. Aside from being a member of the Chicago Police Board and a former U.S. marshal, O’Malley most recently was director of corporate security for the brokerage firm William Blair & Company until Lightfoot hired him as her public safety czar.”
Perspective: The post is a key part of her crime-fighting strategy. But the pick could raise eyebrows, Gorner and Pratt note, in “Chicago political circles, not just because of how he voted on some police board cases, but due to his relative lack of experience with local police forces.” Full story here.
RELATED: The head of the Chicago police civilian oversight committee resigns - Sydney Roberts stepped down today from her post as chief administrator for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates use of force and misconduct complaints.
Another hire: The mayor also appointed interim corporation counsel Celia Meza the permanent top attorney at City Hall. Pending City Council approval, she would become the city’s first Latina in the post. City Hall bio here.
Add one more key official exiting Lightfoot’s administration: Shannon Andrews stepped down as chief procurement officer last month and took a job with the Cook County Health system, starting April 19 as the chief equity and inclusion officer.
Andrews’ departure adds to the growing list of high-profile officials who’ve left recently, highlighted by Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson announcing this week she would step down at the end of June.
Lisa Morrison Butler, commissioner for the Department of Family and Support Services, resigned in February. Susan Lee, deputy mayor for public safety, stepped down last fall.
In a statement, mayoral spokeswoman Kate Lefurgy praised Andrews — who was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2018 to run procurement — for her “unwavering focus on equity and inclusion,” which ensured “many minority- and women-owned businesses have the procurement support and resources they need to thrive in Chicago.”
Monica Jimenez is serving as the acting chief procurement officer. LeFurgy said the city will announce a new chief procurement officer “in the near future.” (John Byrne)
More city news: Full-time in-person school will be default in the fall, departing CPS chief Janice Jackson says, irking head of teachers union: The Tribune’s Hannah Leone has the full report here.
Chicago announces ‘Open Culture’ banner over a summer of arts — including SummerDance and ‘Chicago In Tune,’ the Tribune’s Doug George reports.
Grant Park Music Festival returns in 2021 with lawn pods, lithe ensembles and a little season, Hannah Edgar writes for the Tribune.
To slow summer violence, aldermen and activists call for alternatives to spending federal coronavirus stimulus money on Chicago police
The Tribune’s John Byrne writes: “Chicago’s notoriously violent summer months and the upcoming influx of huge sums of federal coronavirus stimulus money are setting up a showdown between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and activists over the best way to invest to try to curb shootings.
“A Tuesday hearing of the City Council Health Committee gave activists a chance to push ideas for spending up to $1.9 billion in additional federal pandemic money the city will still receive.
They want “Lightfoot to earmark millions of dollars for mental health programs, homeless services and other ideas to stem violence rather than using it to cover the cost of police patrolling Black and Latino neighborhoods where residents’ confidence in officers is at a low point,” Byrne notes. Full story here.
“Michael Madigan was the elephant in the courtroom Wednesday as lawyers for four people charged with conspiring to bribe the former speaker on behalf of utility giant Commonwealth Edison said they expect more charges are coming soon in the bombshell case,” the Tribune’s Jason Meisner writes.
Near the end of a routine court hearing today, an attorney for Michael McClain, a longtime Madigan confidant accused of orchestrating the bribery scheme, suggested more people may get caught up in the federal dragnet.
Later in the day, Meisner and Ray Long reported two former lawmakers went before a federal grand jury, “to explain the full scope of Madigan’s power and control of the legislative process while he was speaker.
“In addition, a third former lawmaker told the Tribune they were recently interviewed by federal authorities, and said questions included ‘Madigan’s role in the process’ about ComEd and other issues,” Meisner and Long report. Read the latest here.
Madigan, who lost the speaker’s gavel in January and later resigned his House seat after nearly 50 years, has not been charged and has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. Full story here.
More state news: Burning natural gas is now more dangerous than coal in Illinois, study shows. Tribune environmental reporter Michael Hawthorne writes, “The alarming findings raise questions about whether Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed transition to a zero-carbon economy would move fast enough in phasing out the use of gas — not only to blunt the impacts of climate change but also to ensure Illinoisans breathe clean air.
“Chicago appears to be locked into a gas-dependent future. Peoples Gas is charging its customers $7.7 billion during the next two decades to replace aging distribution lines throughout the city, even though an accelerating shift to renewable energy could make the project obsolete before it’s completed.” Full story here.