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The Tribune broke a story today about Christopher Kozicki, a planning department official the city's inspector general has recommended be fired for his role in the political hiring scandal that brought down Robert Sorich, the mayor's former patronage chief. Inevitably the story's revelations raise more questions than the city has been willing to answer.
In February 2005 a grand jury indicted Sorich for devising a scheme to "provide financial benefits, in the form of city jobs and promotions, in exchange for campaign work." As part of this scheme, it charged, Sorich and other officials "corrupted the city's personnel process" by awarding "jobs and promotions" to preselected candidates "through sham and rigged interviews."
At the Sorich trial Kozicki, then in the buildings department, testified that as managing deputy commissioner he had altered 19-year-old Andrew Ryan's interview rating to ensure that Ryan scored high enough to get a building inspector's job for which other applicants were more qualified. Andrew Ryan is the son of Tom Ryan, secretary-treasurer of Carpenters Local 13, a union that was a major financial contributor to Daley's 2003 reelection campaign.
U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's office gave Kozicki immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.
During the trial Kozicki also testified that he was a protege of John Daley, Mayor Daley's younger brother, who is Democratic committeeman of the 11th Ward and the finance chairman of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. He said that John Daley had helped him get his buildings department job and that he used to chauffeur the mayor's brother from his house in Bridgeport to his downtown office.
On July 6 a federal jury convicted Sorich for his role in the hiring scandal. On November 20 U.S. district judge David Coar sentenced him to 46 months in prison. Kozicki, on the other hand, was given a newly created job as deputy commissioner in the planning department. Now a report issued by inspector general David Hoffman, the official charged with rooting out scandal in city government, has recommended that the planning department fire Kozicki for his role in the buildings department hiring scandal. Planning department spokeswoman Constance Buscemi would not comment on the matter for the Tribune and was out of town and unavailable for comment when I called.
The news had City Hall old-timers shaking their heads at the irony. Kozicki testifies to his role in a scam in which the well-connected were pushed to the head of the hiring line, regardless of whether they were qualified. Then Kozicki lands one of the highest-paying, highest-ranking jobs in the planning department despite having no apparent experience as a planner.
In the zany world of city hiring rules, the planning department broke no laws when they hired Kozicki, City Hall sources tell me. Kozicki has a Shakman-exempt policy-making position, which department heads are free to fill at their discretion. The real issue is why planning commissioner Lori Healy would want to waste one of her top positions on a man who's not a planner. Was she just following orders?
Hoffman's report does not address the issue of how Kozicki got his gig in planning. But maybe when Buscemi or Healy return from their Christmas breaks, they'll let us taxpayers know why the planning department hired Kozicki and what in the world he does to command almost $130,000 a year.