Public testimony has concluded in Quebec’s public corruption probe.
The corruption commission headed by Justice France Charbonneau was instituted in 2011 to examine the extent of corruption in the province’s construction industry and that industry’s ties with organized crime and provincial and local governments.
Evidence was presented which showed substantial and longstanding infiltration by organized crime into the construction industry as well as the collusive and corrupt involvement of provincial and local government officials in awarding public contracts.
The most colorful and possibly most damaging testimony came from construction magnate Tony Accurso. “His testimony provided an intimate window into the cosy [sic] relationship between Quebec political figures and businessmen who rely on public contracts for their livelihoods,” according to the story headlined Donations to Quebec Liberals the cost of doing business, Accurso tells corruption probe in the September 5, 2014,online news medium OurWindsor.ca. The article’s subheadline reads “Charbonneau commission hears about illegal political donations from construction boss at heart of Quebec’s corruption scandal.”
Organized crime’s infiltration into Quebec’s construction industry was fleshed out a bit in the September 17, 2014, Daily Commercial News story headlined High profile Quebec corruption inquiry hears from last witness. Lest we think organized crime would not be interested in infiltrating the very lucrative construction industry in the United States, the article reported that one of the Charbonneau Commission’s witnesses was former US FBI Special Agent Joseph Pistone whose testimony “… served as a primer on the Mafia’s long-standing infiltration of the construction industry.” And then there was this article from the OurWindsor.ca article dated September 3, 2014. The article’s headline, Montreal mafia boss was a contact, construction magnate tells corruption probe, says it all.
The Charbonneau Commission is expected to issue its final report in April 2015.
Of course, the corruption of public officials to induce them to provide lucrative public contracts only happens in the Canadian Province of Quebec. It could never happen in the State of Idaho. It’s not as if multimillion dollar construction contracts are awarded by Idaho’s state and local governments. And it’s not as if Idaho’s judges, prosecutors, county commissioners, sheriffs, mayors, and city councils would ever accept campaign finance contributions or other remuneration to use their discretion and influence to make sure that corruption investigations never get off the ground or to steer construction contracts toward “generous” contributors. No, that could never happen here in Idaho or Kootenai County or Coeur d’Alene …
OpenCdA has been following the Canadian news media’s reporting of the Quebec corruption scandal and its investigation by the Charbonneau Commission.
The focus of the Charbonneau Commission’s investigation is Quebec’s “…deeply-rooted system of kickbacks, bribes and illegal fundraising that link the province’s construction industry to politicians and civil servants.” We touched on that in our June 22, 2013, post entitled “Corruption becomes a kind of cancer”.
In its online story on August 26, 2014, headlined Bending of rules cost Verdun taxpayers $1.5 million in lost revenue, mayor says, the Gazette [montrealgazette.com] provides an ultra-simple explanation of how officials in Montreal’s borough of Verdun managed to make sure their cronies enriched themselves at the expense of Verdun’s citizens. Verdun has a population of about 66,000.
Fortunately, that kind of cronyism and favoritism never happens here in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
We are disappointed that Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer seems to be following the lead set by his predecessor Sandi Bloem.
Bloem liked to pack unelected committees and commissions with cronies and headnodders who would apply the rubber-stamp of approval to almost any big-dollar deal without considering if it was in the best interests of the City’s reputation or its people.
Thursday’s Coeur d’Alene Press “news article” titled Four corners report reveals that Widmyer is showing he’s no different. In fact, he likes to use some of the same cronies and headnodders. Of the nine advisory committee members named in the “news article,” eight have exceedingly well-developed headnodder muscles toned by years of subservience. To us, only the BLM realty specialist might appear to be considered objectively independent. (more…)
OpenCdA left out something very relevant from yesterday’s post reporting the conviction of former Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon and his wife on charges of voter fraud and perjury. Thanks to alert reader and commenter Susie Snedaker for bringing the omission to our attention in her comment yesterday.
We agree with Susie: The Los Angeles Times editorial posted online on July 23, 2014, and titled Alarcon prosecution sends the right message to other politicians, DAs is well worth reading. Carefully.
The Times editorial board clearly gets it. As they said in their editorial, “…, residency is in most cases a pretty good proxy for engagement with and knowledge of a district, and there is value in having a member of a community represent that community in government.”
We also completely agree with the Times editorial observation that, “The L.A. County district attorney’s office seems to be the only prosecutor in the state willing to bring these types of public integrity cases, and that’s a shame.” Yes, it is a shame that is not limited to prosecutors in California.
But the Times editorial board saved its strongest point for last. “The residency requirement is not a technicality; it’s a core tenet of our democratic system enshrined in the law. No politician should gain an advantage by lying, and no prosecutor should ignore evidence of voter fraud.” To that we would add that no prosecutor and no judge is worthy of their position or the public’s trust and confidence if they ignore evidence of voter fraud and perjury.
Thankfully the Los Angeles County District Attorney, his Deputy DAs, and his Public Integrity Division take their sworn duties seriously. We wish they would come visit Idaho. Maybe some of that would rub off on prosecutors and judges here.
Former Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon and his wife were convicted of voter fraud and perjury in Los Angeles Superior Court Wednesday. Alarcon and his wife had lied about where he actually lived so he would be eligible to run for a particular Los Angeles City Council seat. He and his wife both lied under oath in furtherance of his illegal candidacy.
Alarcon is not the first California official to be convicted of voter fraud in recent history. In January 2014 State Senator Roderick Wright was convicted of voter fraud and perjury for lying about his residence so he could run for the state senate.
Fortunately for the citizens of Los Angeles County, they have a Prosecuting Attorney who takes public corruption seriously enough to have a Public Integrity Division in his office. Here is more but somewhat dated information about the Division and a sampling of cases it has prosecuted.
There are many people who deny the existence of voter fraud. It’s fair to say that many of the deniers are those who choose to engage in fraud as candidates or encourage it as lazy or incompetent county clerks and secretaries of state as well as politically-directed prosecutors and state attorneys general.
As the State of California and Los Angeles County in particular have shown, they pursue voter fraud rather than deny it exists.
According to this New York Times article, former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has been sentenced to ten years in federal prison. Nagin was convicted on 20 federal corruption charges in February, mostly relating to kickbacks he solicited and received from contractors looking to get city work during his term as Mayor of New Orleans.
Why did Nagin go bad (assuming he wasn’t always a crook)? Part of the answer may be revealed in this New Orleans Times-Picayune editorial: Greed.
But greed is often just a convenient reason accompanying a more insidious trait common among corrupt public officials. Often public officials become corrupt because they believe they are smarter than their victims (the public) and smarter than their adversaries in the criminal justice system.
Corrupt public officials also develop a sense of entitlement. They begin to think that because they see themselves as altruistic public servants, they are entitled to take a little something for themselves. After all, they are smarter than everyone else, so it’s only right that they should be compensated by their inferiors for their own superiority.
Greed, a sense of superiority, and a sense of entitlement. Ray Nagin had all of those. Now he will have ten years to think about better times.
According to Angela Spaccia, Robert Rizzo’s cohort in the Bell corruption scandal, Rizzo had a saying:
“Pigs get Fat … Hogs get slaughtered!!! So long as we’re not Hogs … all is well!!”
Today, California Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy told Hog Rizzo that all was not well. She sentenced him to serve 12 years in state prison for his part in the Bell corruption scandal. He will be allowed to serve the state’s sentence concurrently with his 33-month federal sentence on tax-related charges.
The details of today’s sentencing are in LA Times reporter Jeff Gottlieb’s online story headlined Rizzo gets 12 years in prison, marking end to scandal that rocked Bell.
While Rizzo’s sentencing on federal and state charges and Angela Spaccia’s sentencing on state charges do appear to end the state action, there remains the possibility of federal charges against Angela Spaccia. As OpenCdA has noted in several earlier posts, Angela (Sheffield) Spaccia served as Kootenai County, Idaho’s Finance Director prior to going to Bell.
Just down the street (that would be Atlantic Avenue) from scandal-ridden Bell, California, is the city of Cudahy (pronounced “cudda’-hee” or “cudda’-hay”). In fact Bell is Cudahy’s next-door neighbor to the north. It appears that Cudahy and Bell share more than just a border.
In an online story dated April 15, 2014, and headlined State accuses small city Cudahy of large spending irregularities, Los Angeles Times reporters Jeff Gottlieb and Stevel Marble reveal that California State Controller John Chiang today released the state’s City of Cudahy – Review Report – Administrative and Internal Accounting Controls for the period July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2012. (Note: Times reporter Gottlieb updated this story and added details in a later one headlined Audit faults Cudahy as government in chaos.)
The essence of the state’s Review Report can be summed up in the first sentence of the Conclusions section: “We found the City of Cudahy’s administrative and internal accounting control deficiencies to be serious and pervasive. As a result, the potential for fraud, waste, and abuse is very high.” (more…)
Yesterday’s OpenCdA post titled Prison for Former Kootenai County Finance Director linked to the preliminary story from the LA Times reporting that former Kootenai County finance director Angela (Sheffield) Spaccia had been sentenced to 11 years, 8 months in California state prison for her role in the Bell, California, corruption scandal.
Today’s Los Angeles Times story headlined Former Bell second-in-command gets 11 years in prison for corruption elaborates on yesterday’s story. In today’s story there are some telling comments from both Spaccia (Sheffield) and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy. Some of Spaccia (Sheffield)’s comments have been reported before by the Times, but of course Judge Kennedy could not comment until after the trial was over and the sentence had been imposed.
OpenCdA hopes readers will read today’s LA Times article and pay close attention to the comments from both Judge Kathleen Kennedy and the convicted con artist, Angela (Sheffield) Spaccia. They reveal the mindset of not only the con artist Spaccia and her fellow con artist City Administrator Robert Rizzo, but also the Judge’s now much clearer understanding of the complicity of Bell’s then-mayor and all but one member of Bell’s city council.
Midway through today’s article, Times reporters
We can’t help but wonder if Spaccia (Sheffield) at that moment might have been wishing she had stayed in Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County, Idaho. (more…)
Former Kootenai County, Idaho, Finance Director Angela (Sheffield) Spaccia was sentenced today to 11 years, 8 months in prison according to the Los Angeles Times.
Spaccia, known as Angela Sheffield when she was Kootenai County’s Finance Director, was convicted on a variety of charges relating to public corruption in the Bell, California, corruption scandal.
Spaccia’s conviction was on state charges in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Her conviction and sentencing does not preclude additional federal charges being brought against her.
Spaccia’s boss, former Bell administrator Robert Rizzo, is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.
Bell’s former mayor and five city council members have agreed to plead guilty to various charges involving misappropriation of public funds. Each of them could receive up to four years in prison.