Sen. Tom Cullerton
No matter what the verdict proves to be stemming from the federal corruption indictment Illinois state Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) now faces, Jeanette Ward argues more needs to be done to clear up all the blurred lines that largely led to the charges.
“I think it’s kind of a conflict of interest,” Ward, a former U-46 school board member, told the DuPage Policy Journal of the practice of state law allowing a legislator to work as a union organizer while still in office.
Federal prosecutors moved earlier this month to charge Cullerton in a 40-count indictment that alleges he pocketed at least $275,000 in salary from a union job where he was required to do next to nothing. His indictment was made public just hours after former Teamsters boss John Coli Sr. brokered a deal where he pleaded guilty to corruption charges and agreed to cooperate with investigators going forward.
According to the Chicago Tribune, part of the indictment alleges that Coli conspired with Cullerton in the lawmaker landing the six-figure post now at the heart of the probe.
“I’m glad to see that the feds are paying attention because I think Illinois is quite corrupt and that corruption needs to be cleaned out,” Ward said. “It’s gone many years without being fixed or addressed so I’m glad to see that it’s being addressed. Obviously, Illinois hasn’t done things on its own.”
Through his attorneys, the 49-year-old Cullerton, a distant cousin of Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), has denied all charges. A member of Teamsters Local Union 734 before assuming his state Senate seat in January 2013, Cullerton is the seventh Illinois legislator to be hit with criminal charges over the last seven years.
Should Cullerton ever decide to step down, Ward said that she would like to see voters have a voice in picking his successor. If such a decision were to come after Sept. 9, Democrats would be allowed to pick his successor for the next two years.
“I think it’s better to leave things like that to voters,” she said. “I think that’s a good idea in general.”
Cullerton’s 23rd Senate District includes Addison, Bloomingdale, Bartlett, Carol Stream, Glendale Heights, Hanover Park, Itasca, Roselle, Villa Park, West Chicago, Wayne and Wood Dale.