by Mick Dumke
On Tuesday, Mayor Daley told reporters that the federal bribery charges (PDF) against 20th Ward alderman Arenda Troutman, whom he appointed in 1990, were “disappointing and disturbing” if true. On Wednesday, as Daley election attorney Michael Lavelle bickered through a hearing at the Chicago Board of Elections, two of his firm’s employees were across the room fighting to get Troutman’s opponents kicked off the February ballot.
In December five candidates filed to run against Troutman. All of their ballot petitions were challenged by Iris L. Heard, Troutman’s sister and an employee in the city’s Department of Environment, and Jermaine B. Sheppard, a staffer in Troutman’s ward office.
Wednesday afternoon Sheppard sat through a series of hearings in which 20th Ward hopefuls argued to a board officer that the objections filed by Heard and Sheppard weren’t valid and that they, Troutman’s challengers, should be allowed to remain on the ballot. Heard wasn’t there, so Sheppard, in the middle of the workday, represented the Troutman campaign. He was flanked by two young attorneys, Kara Allen and Adam Lasker.
None of Troutman’s would-be opponents had attorneys.
Over the course of a couple hours the hearing officer vetted out some of the complaints, but he didn’t issue a final ruling on whether any of the candidates would be bounced off the ballot.
The interesting part, in my view, happened after the last of the 20th Ward hearings, when I struck up a brief conversation with Allen. This is how our exchange went:
“Which firm are you guys with?”
“Lavelle & Motta.”
“So were you guys retained by Troutman?”
“Oh. Who retained you, then?”
“I don’t know.”
She wouldn't say anything else.
Sheppard smiled when I asked whether Daley’s campaign had hired Troutman’s lawyers. He said he knew the answer but couldn't give it. He was still wearing his city employee badge.
Michael Lavelle was just then in another board hearing about 20 feet away, battling with an attorney for mayoral candidate Dock Walls over how to proceed with a challenge to Daley’s petition signatures. Lavelle, it should be noted, has worked for a long list of elected officials. I presume that most hire him themselves.
Later I called Daley’s campaign office. Terry Peterson, the campaign chairman, got worked up when I asked if Daley’s team was paying for Troutman’s election lawyers, as had been hinted earlier.
“No!” he said. “No! I don’t know where you got that from! I haven’t even talked with Alderman Troutman!”
Peterson said the Daley campaign hadn’t retained anyone’s election attorneys except the mayor’s. “I can tell you that for certain, because I sign the checks,” he said.
But I'm guessing that someone is paying for Troutman to employ the services of Lavelle & Motta.