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Aide to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is convicted in corruption probe

Al Sanchez gave out city jobs in exchange for campaign work, jurors find. Sanchez's lawyer says higher-ranking city officials should 'come forward and take responsibility' for the hiring system.

March 24, 2009|Jeff Coen and Dan Mihalopoulos

CHICAGO — Al Sanchez, the former commissioner of Chicago's Streets and Sanitation Department, was convicted Monday on charges that he rigged city hiring by trading jobs for campaign work.

Sanchez, 61, is the highest-ranking aide to Mayor Richard M. Daley to be found guilty in the federal corruption probe of City Hall hiring. A federal jury convicted Sanchez on four counts of mail fraud and acquitted him on three other mail fraud counts.

The jury also convicted Aaron Delvalle, Sanchez's former assistant, on a perjury charge of lying to a grand jury about the rigged hiring.

Sanchez's attorney, Thomas Breen, said he was "a little mystified" by the verdict.

Breen said Sanchez had "fought discrimination, fought racism and fought for his people." He worked 24 hours a day "to earn the people's trust and respect."

Breen said it was "hypocrisy" for city officials who ranked higher than Sanchez to skate by. "No one has had the guts to come forward and take responsibility" for the hiring system, he said.

"I don't understand why Al Sanchez has been singled out," Breen told reporters.

One juror, Arlene Kaminski, said the panel was split when deliberations began and ended up convicting Sanchez on counts in which there were witnesses who could testify to specifics. Kaminski said she was aware of hiring issues in the city as a whole.

"It's been going on from way back. It doesn't make it right," she said.

Prosecutors alleged that for more than a decade, Sanchez was a leading figure in a pervasive scheme to corrupt city hiring. He and others close to him gave out jobs and promotions in return for campaign work, the government charged.

During closing arguments, Breen told the jury that Sanchez was interested in public service and getting minorities on the city rolls, so he had to work within the system established by the mayor's office of intergovernmental affairs.

Breen said Sanchez had to deal with a system in which politicians gave cushy jobs to white applicants in the Aviation Department and in the Streets and Sanitation Department's electricity bureau while minorities were stuck chasing rats and cleaning alleys.

Prosecutors dismissed the claim that Sanchez was a pawn by telling jurors that the former Daley aide had to be in on hiring fraud for it to be so pervasive in his department, the city's largest with more than 4,000 employees.

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jcoen@tribune.com

dmihalopoulos@tribune.com

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