Thursday, April 05, 2007

Travellin' Man

I wonder how many readers still have not decided who to vote for. Among the Bytelife bloggers, Peter's mind is made up in favor of Mayor Cole, for sure. But Jim Syler seems to be against him for using the flag in advertising. Last I heard, Bob Pauls was also undecided. Some may vote for Sheila because she had tea with them, and makes them feel their voice is heard. Cole isn't much a schmoozer, but does appear to enjoy traveling to distant lands on official business, such as going to Shimla, India to present a quilt and reestablish a dormant Sister City relationship. (Couldn't it have been Fed-Ex'd?) It appears that Cole got on the Sister Cities board as a result of his initiative. He also traveled to another Sister City in Japan, although I can not find an official press release for that trip. It might be interesting to post the entire list that Sheila waved accusingly to the debate audience last week, so readers can decide if Cole's travel itinerary was wasteful, or if the mayor was just doing his job.

I myself will be traveling to Oregon the day after the April 17 election - to investigate possibilities for grown-up bloggers in Corvallis. ;-) , and purchase art at the Portland Art Market for Art Lovers.

Must be back by April 28 to attend the Jung at Heart Celebration at Big Boys Q, organized by Prof. Terry Clark (Cayenne Boyd is flying in from Santa Cruz to perform) to raise $ to help pay for Jim's medical bills.


PeterG said...

I'm just back from Corvallis and I was in Portland too. If you need a restaurant recommendation, let me know (it is all about the food you know ;)). It is pretty there, this time of year. A quick trip to Rejuvenation Hardware would be on my agenda, but I'm into Mission furniture.

You could save the trip and let us help you find artists off, we would be happy to help.

Anonymous said...


Gifting the boss? A capital tradition
Springfield just isn't like your workplace

By James Janega and Maura Possley, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporters John McCormick and Rex W. Huppke contributed to this report

February 8, 2006

For the janitor, the retired state police officer and the current mayor of Carbondale, nothing seemed odd about slipping a few dead presidents into their boss' Christmas card, even though their boss at the time was the governor of Illinois.

"The governor was a friend of mine," said Brad Cole, George Ryan's one-time deputy chief of staff in southern Illinois and now Carbondale's mayor. "I give gifts to friends at Christmas."

This kind of gift-giving, the details of which have been trickling out in Ryan's corruption trial, may be commonplace in Springfield or other political arenas. But news that Ryan's underlings pitched in to give him $12,500 in cash as a 2002 Christmas gift during his last year as governor came as a bit of a shock in more traditional business circles.

Defense testimony also has shown employees gave him thousands of dollars in Christmas gifts even earlier, when he was secretary of state.

"It's quite unusual in my experience, and it strikes me as highly questionable if not outright unethical," said Freada Kapor Klein, a San Francisco consultant on corporate culture. "Gifts usually go the other way in the hierarchy."

Clearly, Springfield is not corporate America.

Don Skoda, a janitor in the governor's office for the last 12 years, makes $33,700 a year. He recalls chipping in $25 to Ryan's Christmas gift in 2002 and about the same the year before, saying that each year a collection would come around for a gift for the governor.

Skoda said he never felt pressured and never had any problems showing his boss his appreciation.

"He's a real nice guy," Skoda said. "He treated us good."

Like many state workers, Skoda had shown his generosity before. Public records show that he donated $3,650 to Ryan's campaigns since 1994 and $3,025 to the Sangamon County Republican Foundation since 1999.

The revelations about the Christmas cash came from Vicki Easley, Ryan's longtime secretary, a defense witness. His lawyers are seeking to show how Ryan came to have wads of bills in his pockets even though he rarely went to the bank.

No wrongdoing

There are no allegations that taking or giving the gifts involved wrongdoing.

Many would say Skoda and other Ryan staffers were simply participants in the age-old pay-to-play game of Illinois politics, where it was once a given that you'd pony up part of your earnings to the person who got you your job.

"I think that at one point, it really was a very common thing," said Cindy Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. "I think it's much less so now. But just because it's commonplace doesn't mean it was ever right or ever not intimidating. People can say they were giving freely, but it's a culture that's subtly telling you to pony up if you care about your job."

When asked about their generous, up-the-chain-of-command holiday giving, those who worked for Ryan when he was governor and secretary of state insisted there were no ulterior motives.

"For all the benefits I received from being in that position, I never did feel that it was expected or that it was necessary [or] anything like that," said retired Illinois State Police Sgt. Larry Esper, one of 13 men on Ryan's gubernatorial security team.

They kicked in as much as $100 each as a Christmas gift to Ryan and his wife, Lura Lynn, in 2002, and a smaller amount the year before, when Ryan received $3,500 in Christmas gifts, court records show.

In 2002, the security detail sent the Ryans a 2002 Christmas card with $1,000 in it, including $100 from Esper. He said his salary that year was about $80,000, plus overtime bonuses.

"It wasn't just from me. It was from the detail to show our appreciation for how he treated us--a sign of respect, admiration and appreciation," said Esper. "It was absolutely, unequivocally voluntary. It was up to you."

There was the same sense of holiday volunteerism at higher levels of the administration, said Cole, though he added there was a feeling the gifts were noticed more.

"I was a deputy chief of staff. There were only two of those," he said. "As best I recall at this point, I probably said, What's everybody doing for the governor for Christmas?"

Money is the answer

The answer? Giving money, he said. In 2001 and 2002, Cole said, he wrote a check to Easley.

"I figured that a present was given," he said. "I have no idea what. I don't have any idea what anybody else got him."

Neither did Laurence Msall, who gave $100 in 2002. Now president of a Chicago tax policy organization called the Civic Federation, he was formerly Ryan's senior adviser for economic development and infrastructure.

"Someone approached with the opportunity to contribute to a joint office Christmas present," he said. "I don't recall what the present was or if it was going to be something else besides cash.

"I assume somebody kept track to see who contributed to write a thank-you card or something," he said. "This was not a political contribution, this was a contribution to an office Christmas present."

So is it possible that during the Ryan years, the spirit of Christmas giving simply swept through Springfield with unprecedented gusto?

Kenneth Janda, a professor of political science at Northwestern University, doesn't think so. Regardless of the motivation, he said, it was "extraordinarily foolish" for the governor to accept such gifts.

"I'm just astounded that he would be caught up in something so petty," Janda said. "It's sort of the Christmas bonus in reverse. It's so monumentally dumb that you just can't imagine what kind of advantage could come of this."


Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

Nah, no ethical issues here at all.

Parentheticus said...

Actually, Anonymous smearer, this 'Travelin' Man' post is about traveling.... Do you have something to contribute along those lines? Your comment just seems like another mud pie that misses its mark, and would be better placed in the "Why Vote for Sheila", which is mostly anti-Cole anyway.

I asked the Simonites to produce Cole's travel records to show how it was frivolous or unethical. Nothing to show?

Anonymous said...

How would we 'produce' his records? They are public records and all one need do is request them at the City Clerk's office. Some people have looked at them and come to the conclusion that he is wasting city dollars on frivolous trips for himself. If you would like to look at them and draw your own conclusions, be my guest.

He traveled to Ireland for a conference on city money, and then did not attend the conference.

He traveled to Chicago for the swearing in of an immigration judge. And for what purpose? What business does the Mayor Carbondale have going to such an event?

He traveled to Cuba as part of an SIU sponsored trip, and he went as a 'student' but paid for the trip (over $4,000) with city money.

He has traveled to India and Japan as well. Again, for what purpose? The Sister City program? What benefits have those brought to the people of Carbondale?

Also, Cole has claimed that the Council has approved his travel budget and each and every trip. Only partially true.

Cole has split the travel budget up under different sections of the budget, where there are staff that might take advantage of such funds. However, that money is not itemized listing the specific travel to which it will go when the budget is approved. You might argue that the City Council should demand itemization, and I would agree with you.

However, Cole has also argued that the Council has 'signed off' on his travel after he returned and sought reimbursement. Patently untrue.

City Manager Doherty’s and Cole’s are the only two signatures you will find on any of Cole's travel documents. No Council member has 'approved' of his specific trips, which clearly have gone for his own personal enjoyment or to further his own political career. You might not have a problem paying for the Mayor’s personal vacations and political junkets, but I imagine that it is an issue for a significant number of the taxpayers in Carbondale.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughts Annonomous City Clerk...

Parentheticus said...

To Anonymous -- When I asked a Simonite to 'produce' the list, I meant send it directly to me, as someone did with the Facebook page. Since Sheila was waving it to the audience at the debate, I assumed that someone in the campaign would have it.

As to your charges about his travels being "personal vacations" or "Political junkets" I don't have the facts, though I am curious about your evidence re: Ireland trip. Were you with him? Did someone else provide you with the info? Is he/she reliable enough to step forward? Or is he/she anonymous, as well?

I should probably make a NO MORE ANONYMOUS SMEARS rule. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Come one, come all! To the crucifixion of Brad Cole at the Catholic Church this Easter weekend! See the 31 year old state treasurer run Brad Cole through the Chicago machine. (Refreshments and light appetizers will be served.)

Anonymous said...

"Chicago machine"

Nice try, unless you want to start talking about the "Ryan machine." The link is closer there than the Sheila-to-Chicago machine is. Unless, of course, you want to also imply that her father was part of machine politics.

Try those arguments -- the logical implications of what you're trying to float here -- out in Carbondale. See how far you get with them.

Scott said...

Poor, poor Mayor Cole. Running this race all by his lonesome against such odds.

Its almost enough to feel sorry for him. Wait, no it isn't.

Parentheticus said...

Something is going on, and you do know what's going on, don't you, Mr. Smith.

How do you explain this claim of Cole's in his 2003 plan. Is the same conference you -- or Anonymous -- said he blew off?

In March 2002, Brad Cole was recognized for his solid brand of leadership when selected by the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) to take part in a U.S. State Department sponsored delegation to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Chosen from among thousands of highly qualified elected officials throughout the nation, Cole fit well within ACYPL's bi-partisan mission to promote and develop international relationships between government leaders. His skillful handling of numerous, and often sensitive, situations during the two week journey abroad led his American colleagues to recommend him for future assignments with the organization.

On can only imagine what these "sensitive situations" were.

Anonymous said...

It probably means he stopped the bar fights at the pub where Democrats and Republicans argued over who had the better presidential candidates.

Parentheticus said...

The DE says: Simon, Cole clash over travel costs - City: "Mayor calls move last-minute, disingenuous"

And I agree, don't you?

Sheila should have paid more attention at the time, she says.

Anonymous said...

C'mon Dave, you have access to the Mayor. Why don't you ask him to prove that he attended the actual conference.

Your quote is from Cole's campaign literature! Yes, he went on the trip - we all know that. But he skipped the actual conference meeting that he was supposed to attend as part of that trip. Surely the mayor could produce some documentation proving that he attended that function, couldn't he?

Parentheticus said...

I'm ambivalent about the Ireland conference charge, because conference sessions are usually a boring waste of time, and more can be learned and gleaned outside the confines of the meeting room. But I understand you want your taxpayer's money's worth.

I don't know what the specific event was that he allegedly blew off. Nor have you haven't presented any evidence. Only accusation.

And even if you could, it doesn't change his ability to be mayor. It may just prove that he values his time or had some "sensitive issues" to settle.

But show us what you got, anonymous. Give me some specifics, and I will try to ask Mr. O'Cole about it, if it amounts to anything.

Anonymous said...

What specifics do you need? Ask the mayor if he went to the conference that the city paid for him to attend. That was the justification for the trip was it not?

Anonymous said...

No, I don't think it is disingenuous. You'll notice that the Mayor didn't defend his travel, he attacked back. I personally find that very troubling. If you think there was some good in the travel, explain it. If you don't like the message, you attack the messanger.

My preventative bit for Dave's standard response to me:

I will hammer Sheila when the local bloggers start writing about her rather than pumping up Brad Cole. Peter has been previewing the mayors campaign literature for weeks now, but doesn't have the guts to say its being fed to him (honestly...its obvious). when Sheila starts feeding people information, I'll attack their silliness too.

At least you're honest about your connection, Dave, and you don't censor your blog. I can appreciate that.