It’s time once again to dive in to another round of quick takes on the people, places and events that were being talked about over the past week:
The Illinois Attorney General’s office has charged a local entrepreneur with embezzling $1.8 million in state grant funds aimed at helping those in need.
When the state filed those allegations in federal bankruptcy court in early October, the target of the allegations — Sally Carter — had 30 days to file a written response.
But it’s going to take a little longer than that.
Carter, an entrepreneur and motivational speaker who works for state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, has asked in a motion she personally filed for an extension of time “to procure an attorney and file an answer.”
It’s a bit complicated. But there are actually two civil cases pending now — 1) Carter’s bankruptcy filing and 2) the attorney general’s motion opposing Carter’s request to discharge her $1.8 million debt to the state.
Court records indicate Carter’s lawyer — Roger Prillaman of Urbana — remains involved in the bankruptcy case but is not representing her in the second case — the AG’s motion to block discharge of the debt.
Rarely has a case involved this kind of legal intrigue involving missing taxpayer dollars within the confines of the usually low-profile federal bankruptcy venue.
Carter has until Nov. 29 to respond.
In a related event, Carter’s bankruptcy case became less complicated when she reached an out-of-court settlement with another creditor opposing Carter’s effort to discharge her debts.
Urbana resident Bridget Kao filed a small-claims court lawsuit against Carter seeking compensation for the non-payment of wages. Kao worked briefly for Carter but said she never was paid, prompting her to go to court.
Carter’s bankruptcy sought to discharge her debt to Kao.
But Kao was so dogged in her effort to persuade the bankruptcy court to block the discharge that Carter made a settlement offer, which Kao accepted.
Earlier this month, Kao received a certified check for $5,612 from Carter’s lawyer. The remitter on the check, however, was not Carter but an acquaintance identified as Sharon L. Irish.
Kao said she is relieved to have her financial dispute with Carter over but interested to see how further proceedings work out.
The delay and settlement are just the latest goings-on in a bankruptcy case that began in February after Circuit Judge Jason Bohm ordered Carter to re-pay the missing $1.8 million.
She filed for federal bankruptcy shortly after, reporting $600,000 in debt and $118,000 in assets. In her filing, Carter acknowledged the state’s judgment but not the amount.
Carter received the $1.8 million grant from the state’s human services department in 2016. The money was intended to provide an array of social services to low-income youth.
State officials alleged Carter then cut off contact with the state, failing to file required reports or respond to inquiries. That raised the question of where the $1.8 million went.
Assistant attorney general Shannon DeLaMar provided the state’s answer when she alleged that Carter used the funds to benefit herself and her family.
One example involved financing a family vacation to Las Vegas.
In court, Carter has answered questions about her finances but largely responded with vague and changing answers that raised more questions.
The bankruptcy court process is a civil, not criminal, process. Those who have listened in on the telephone hearings include creditors, the attorney general and an assistant federal prosecutor.
Vice of vagueness
The Israeli/Hamas war in Gaza that began after Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israeli citizens has generated hostile displays at the University of Illinois.
One photo widely distributed Oct. 29 on Twitter showed an apparent UI student holding a sign referencing the disposal of Israel in a garbage can and stating, “Keep the world clean.”
The next day — Oct. 30 — UI Chancellor Robert Jones issued a campuswide statement that said, “we condemn and reject abhorrent expressions that threaten our ability to create a safe and healthy learning and work environment.”
A UI spokesman said Jones’ email was a response to “everything” that has occurred on campus, including the sign.
Jones’ statement cited unacceptable “expressions of antisemitism or Islamophobia” and denounced general language “contrary to our mutual values of inclusion or tolerance.”
Speech like that on the poster calls for a vigorous response, not rhetorical DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) mush from the man in charge.
Big trial looming
When people think of high-profile corruption cases pending in Chicago federal court, they can’t be blamed for conjuring up the name of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The Diminutive Don faces trial in the Commonwealth Edison bribery conspiracy case. That’s not scheduled to begin until April 1, 2024.
But there’s another big dog on the docket whose trial begins Monday — longtime Alderman Ed Burke.
The clout-heavy pol threw his weight around Chicago municipal government for decades, spending his off hours deciding who could and would become a state judge.
He put his wife — retired Justice Anne Burke — on the Illinois Supreme Court. She was the chief justice when Burke was indicted by the feds.
Although not as well known as Madigan statewide, Burke was described by the Chicago Sun-Times as “once the most powerful member of the Chicago City Council,” where he controlled the finance committee.
He faces “sweeping racketeering and extortion charges” as the result of a lengthy FBI probe.
Approaching 80, Burke, like Madigan, faces a lengthy stint in prison if convicted, a life that will be a far cry from what he enjoyed as a selfless public servant.
In his aldermanic role, he enjoyed a car, driver and bodyguards at taxpayer expense. Those kind of perks separate the real political movers and shakers from the wannabes.
Something of a Renaissance man, Burke is described as a man of “wit, musical talents and knowledge of Chicago history.” At the same time, he’s portrayed as just another shakedown art who used his powerful office to “extort legal work in property tax appeals, campaign contributions and other favors large and small from business owners” who needed municipal assistance.
FBI tapes reveal Burke’s methods of doing business as well his memorable phrases (“The cash register has not rung yet”) that will become a part of Chicago’s rich and colorful history of public corruption.
Burke, the son of a political power broker, served 14 terms on the city council before deciding earlier this year not to seek a 15th term.
Showing the money
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker didn’t waste any time throwing his financial weight around.
He formed Think Big America a couple weeks ago with a $1.5 million contribution — undoubtedly the first of his many deposits — and has started spreading his cash around.
Pritzker, through Think Big America, donated $250,000 to Virginia Democrats, $150,000 to the state party and $25,000 each to four Democratic state senate candidates competing in a Tuesday election.
Pritzker has indicated he’s trying to fight “extremism” and promote legal abortion. But his interest in higher office — the presidency — is obvious, and spreading cash around is an easy way to make friends in states outside Illinois.
Democrats and Republicans are fighting over control of the Virginia legislature.
Pritzker previously has made donations to candidates and organizations in Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada.
“Think Big America” undoubtedly will be a big player across the country in 2024. As the beneficiary of a multibillion-dollar family fortune, Pritzker has made it clear he will spend whatever it takes to achieve his political goals.
It’s that timeHere’s a tip: If you don’t want to be an hour late for everything for the next five months, set your clock back an hour this weekend.
Why? Daylight saving time. That means it’ll be depressingly dark when readers leave work in the late afternoons.
People will get that hour back in March 2024 — more than four dark, cold, stinking months from now.
But here’s something else to think about.
State Fire Marshal James Rivera said “Daylight saving time serves as a bi-annual reminder for residents to test, inspect and replace any broken or expired smoke detector and CO alarms in their homes.”
Smoke detectors and CO alarms can be life-savers.
Making sure they are up to snuff is important any time of year.
Doing it this weekend will help make something positive out of our long days’ journeys into night.