Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- January 01, 1875The County Board's Corrupt Eight The Opinion of the Press and the Public
The resentment and indignation which the county board's bold and shameless action of yesterday aroused in all circles, excepting those that were directly benefited, defies description. "Thieves" and "damned scoundrels" are some of the milder and less hostile expressions that were applied to the eight men concerned. Unfortunately, it has long been suspected that Crawford and Johnson are thoroughly corrupt fellows; but everybody was surprised and dumfounded when it was reported that Russell had heaped shame upon his hoary head, that Carroll, MacCaffrey, and Conly, men who were elected on a reform ticket, have departed from the path of honesty, that Lonergan, who can look back upon a long, honorable career, allied himself with rogues, and that Herting abused the confidence which all of his fellow citizens placed in him, merely to gain an advantage for his family. Indeed, there is great consternation.
If such men falter and are untrue to their promises, how can we trust anybody?2
Although the public knows that the frauds which have been disclosed would not have been possible if the committee had not been guilty of gross negligence, it might have excused the evil deeds if the board had shown any remorse; but the fact that the report of these misdeeds was ignored, that an attempt was made to expunge the "aggravating" parts of the record, and that the guilty members of the board were re-elected, proves to the satisfaction of the public that the old members of that body participated in past frauds, and that the new members expect to benefit from future frauds; in other words, that the eight members of the county board, Carroll, MacCaffrey, Conly, Crawford, Johnson, Russell, Lonergan, and Herting are perjurers, thieves, and scoundrels. It is their own fault that the public passes such severe judgment upon them, for the public knows no criterion save the acts which it sees. And they are the only just basis of judgment.
Comments by the English Language Press
The English language press of yesterday did not spare words in condemning the 3eight commissioners, and, judging from indications, will use much stronger expressions today.
The Chicago Times, which deserves due credit for its drastic comments, no matter how objectionable some of its other features are, has the following headlines on its report of the county board's proceedings of last Wednesday:
He Has Been Creating It In The County Board With His Little Report, Which Shows That Some Of The Commissioners Ought To Be Hanged And Others Strangled For Being Common Public Plunderers
The County Supply System Simply A System Of Organized Robbery And The Poorhouse Is The "Fence" Where The "Swag" Is Stored
Indications Of The Formation Of A Ring As Corrupt As That Presided Over by Sam Ashton 4The Chicago Tribune has this to say in an editorial note: "The 'Ring of Eight' was very busy again last night. Anyone who is interested in such matters can inform himself on the policy of the board by reading the report of yesterday's proceedings."
An exposure of fraud in the system of furnishing county supplies which was promised a long time ago by certain members of the county board was made yesterday. The special committee, appointed at the first meeting of the new board to investigate the entire matter, submitted its report. The gist of this report is that the county is being defrauded of large sums of money every year; that the contractors are dishonest in many instances; that the agents of the county are careless and corrupt; that there is no way to determine how many of the supplies that are paid for are received at the county institutions; that the system of outdoor relief has been misused, both by the paupers and the contractors. The committee gives some specific cases of fraud which are quite sufficient to prove the general allegations. The committee shows by a table of comparisons that the dry goods furnished to the county poorhouse by the contractor could have been bought 5from Field and Leiter for $5000 less than was paid; and that the discrepancy between the value of goods paid for and those actually received at the poor-house is $5000. There is at least presumptive evidence of the same kind and degree of robbery at the other county institutions, where no account whatever was kept of goods received.
The abuses in the outdoor system of relief are even more monstrous. The poor have been allowed to take orders for pork or hominy, and to receive from the contractors a pretended equivalent in sugar or tea. Thus a double swindle is perpetrated, first by compelling the county to furnish luxuries, and next by allowing the substitution of less than their equivalent for the articles that were ordered. The coal contract was apparently more liberally interpreted than the others.
It was obtained, in the first instance, by a "straw" bid, and the contractor has been placed on his honor throughout, nobody attempting to check the weights of the half tons furnished by him on the order of the county agent.6
We think that the charge of fraud is pretty well established. The remedy suggested by the committee is good, and perhaps adequate. It is the appointment of a county purchasing agent and of a purchasing committee in the county board, who shall co-operate in the control of all purchases made by the county. The recommendation that a change should be made in the purchasing committee, in order to prevent too intimate an acquaintance between members and the board, also appears to be very wise and necessary.
Mr. Holden and the other members of the committee who made this investigation deserve the gratitude of the community. Their work has been patient and thorough. It has been done fearlessly and honestly, though threats have not been wanting to frighten, or money to bribe the members of the committee.
Election of a New Committee
The public especially resents the fact that the board elected a new committee, although grave charges had been made against at least one of its members; there 7is also much dissatisfaction on account of the manner in which the other offices were filled. People object to the replacement of Doctor Tope, who is an experienced physician and has shown great ability, by a young and inexperienced man. The public thinks it strange that MacCaffrey obtained, as one of the prices for his treason, the appointment of his brother as one of the janitors of the Criminal Court building, while the other janitor job was given to the notorious drunkard Periolat, a brother of the contractor, in preference to old trustworthy Mason.
The new committee on investigations, to which the report of the special committee has been referred, has not yet organized. It consists of Commissioners Conly, Carroll, MacCaffrey, Johnson, Herting, and Lonergan, who are members of the corrupt majority, and Schmidt, Jones, Clough, Busse, and Holden, who belong to the honest minority. So the corrupt clique has a majority of one, and will do everything it possibly can to attenuate the charges, or it will deny them in toto. We hope that the minority will make matters difficult for the dishonest men, and that it will do everything it can to disclose the frauds which have 8occurred at the other institutions. We are aware that that will be a difficult task, since Kimberly and McLaughlin have been reappointed supervisors of the poorhouse, insane asylum and county hospital, and Dieden has been appointed county agent.
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