November 1, 2010 BY TIM NOVAK AND CHRIS FUSCO Staff Reporters
It began with the arrest of a former member of the Jesse White Tumbling Team and turned into one of the most significant Chicago corruption investigations of Mayor Daley’ administration.
The federal investigation dubbed “Operation Crooked Code” so far has led to the convictions of 21 people — including 15 city building and zoning inspectors. The 21st conviction came just last Thursday, when a federal jury convicted developer Dumitru Curescu of bribery.
Despite those successful cases, Crooked Code hasn’t been as high-profile as investigations of the city’s Hired Truck Program or city hiring or the Operation Silver Shovel probe, largely because it involves corruption on a smaller scale — rank-and-file city workers taking bribes to overlook building-code violations on neighborhood housing projects.
Still, the joint investigation by the city of Chicago inspector general’s office and federal authorities has changed the way City Hall does business:
• The city now randomly assigns inspectors to job sites, hoping to keep them from developing personal relationships with contractors.
• And once a construction project begins, City Hall tries to ensure that different inspectors examine different phases of the work.
“The old system was a breeding ground for improper relationships,” says Juliet Sorensen, a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted most of the 21 people convicted.