Sorich must head to prison Monday

April 17, 2008 3:10:33 PM PDT
Chicago's former patronage chief, Robert Sorich, was ordered to report to a Wisconsin federal prison on Monday. But Sorich's attorney says his client will continue to appeal his conviction for violating the ban on political hiring.

Can a 25-page pamphlet change a culture that has become as synonymous with Chicago as the Bulls and Bears? The city's new compliance chief concedes it won't be easy. Perhaps complicating the matter is Mayor Daley's own silence on the specifics of wrong-doing by those close to him.

Robert Sorich has a date with a federal prison. He has been ordered to turn himself in at the federal prison camp in Oxford, Wisconsin, by 2 p.m. Monday afternoon. But, in the 21 months since a jury convicted Mayor Daley's former patronage chief of rigging the city's hiring system, Daley has yet to concede -- let alone condemn -- the actions of his long-time aide.

"The court has made its decision and there is nothing I can add to this legal debate," the mayor said Tuesday.

Robert Sorich is from Daley's old Bridgeport neighborhood. The family connections date back to both their fathers.

Sorich appears resigned to serving his nearly four-your prison term.

"He'd like to get on with it. He's a relatively young man and wants to put this episode behind him and move on," said Tom Durkin, Sorich's attorney.

While Sorich's lawyer was in court Thursday morning Mayor Daley was meeting with his cabinet and the city's new compliance officer. They are preparing to distribute a new 25-page booklet that in the words of the compliance chief is meant to instill "values" in the city's 35,000 employees.

Among other things, the code of conduct encourages city workers to report the misdeeds of others and reminds them not to do political work on city time.

"I think it's unrealistic not to expect some resistance. Whenever there's change there's resistance. All that means is people are becoming aware a culture is transforming," said Anthony Boswell, Chicago compliance director.

Perhaps more threatening than a code of conduct book is the warning from Mr. Sorich's attorney. He says the appeals court decision that is sending his client to prison gives prosecutors a license to liberally use mail fraud charges to ensnare those suspected of corruption.

"Is it a green light? Absolutely. But these people run through yellow lights and they don't normally stop even at red lights. Is that a shock?" said Durkin.

Some court watchers believe the feds have been waiting for that appeals court decision before moving forward on other corruption investigations. And that may very well have some in city, county and state government worried.


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