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The great pizza scandal of 2011

Tuesday, Apr 16, 2013

* Belleville News-Democrat

The former head of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s regional office in Collinsville violated ethics rules by soliciting pizzas for an office party from a contractor, according to a report by the state’s top investigator.

Inspector General Ricardo Meza’s investigation determined that Mary Lamie violated the gift ban in the state’s ethics rules and recommended that she be disciplined. Lamie now works in the private sector.

Lamie, who worked for IDOT until at least March 2011, declined comment Monday. While at IDOT, she served as the engineer for District 8, which covers Madison, St. Clair and nine other counties in the area, as well as District 9, which covers 16 counties in Southern Illinois.

According to the inspector general’s report, during an interview with investigators Lamie admitted that she instructed an underling to solicit pizzas from an IDOT consultant for an office party for District 9, based in Carbondale.

Obviously, she shouldn’t have been soliciting $50 in pizza from a contractor. No defense there. But this is what the IG is concentrating on?

* Actually, the IG also issued another report on former Congressman David Phelps

Phelps, hired [at IDOT] in 2003 after he lost re-election, was excoriated in the report, which included his inability to explain to Meza’s investigators what his work day entailed other than meeting with “lots of people.” Despite his title, the IDOT secretary at the time, Quinn appointee Gary Hannig, said Phelps was not part of the management team.

“It appears that Mr. Phelps does little work,” the report said. “This coupled with the … investigative findings, seemingly indicates that the primary actions which Mr. Phelps undertakes in an official capacity are those that constitute misconduct and abuse of his position.”

The report said Phelps, who made $128,000, acknowledged he met with job candidates, particularly for a 2009 summer hiring program, including those who had supported him in congressional campaigns. According to the report, he told employees doing the hiring whom he favored for jobs because he wanted to help “good people.”

Phelps countered that contrary to being unable to discuss his job in detail, he described how tried to bring accountability to the position, represented IDOT on the Illinois Terrorism Task Force, represented IDOT at events aimed at traffic safety, and submitted work schedules that IDOT secretaries approved. He disputed the report’s description of his intervention with job candidates and noted allegations that he improperly intervened came from witnesses whose names are redacted and whose testimony he had no chance to rebut.

“I talked to a lot of people about jobs,” Phelps said. “I helped direct them to the right information they could have so they’d have a better chance, but it’s not because of who they were. As soon as they went out the door, there might be somebody else talking about the same job.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        


24 Comments
  1. - Biz Guy - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 11:40 am:

    Soliciting pizza means begging for free pizza?


  2. - anon - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 11:43 am:

    i believe that IDOT has many problems. Since SB51, there is no accountability for its quality based selection of consultants on transportation bulletins. Nobody can explain why firms are or are not selected, and fear of ethics violations prevents senior managers, or even the governor’s office from seeking an explanation. there is a facelss beuracracy at IDOT that is making these decisions, and their motives are questionable. could these unidentified decision makers be making decisions that benefit their future employers following their IDOT tenure? its a real problem.


  3. - Huh? - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 12:02 pm:

    A few years ago, I attended a conference where David Phelps was a keynote speaker. It was a wasted 45 minutes with a lot of words and not much content.


  4. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 12:12 pm:

    Well, I’m glad they got to the bottom of this. Did the IG detail what kind of pizza was solicited? Was it Little Caesars or Dominoes? Papa John’s (maybe from a Rezko franchise?) or was it high end, like Pizza Hut? Was it meat lovers or plain cheese? Veggie? Did they order salads and did they get free 2-liters of RC Cola with the order? These are the kind of details we need to know in order to determine the proper penalty for this crime.

    The Phelps stuff is the most interesting and least surprising part of the report.


  5. - CircularFiringSquad - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 12:17 pm:

    Phelps should have been asked to sing!

    The IG should be commended for sniffing out this pizza scandal and making it a thing of the past.

    Never mind it probably cost a $1 million in combined legal fees and makes the IG look a little ___________________________.

    Just think how many pizzas would have been gobbled if we would have had to wait for the BGA or the ReBooters or Watchdoggers to get this probe out of the oven.


  6. - Lil Squeezy - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 12:42 pm:

    Nobody in the GA ever solicits people to buy pizza.


  7. - Cassiopeia - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 12:51 pm:

    Many Assistant Directors have no real function nor really do much. They are political give away positions.


  8. - Leave a Light on George - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 1:10 pm:

    The IG’s office ” were originally conceived as a check against corruption.” It was also immediately corrupted by Blago.

    =Many Assistant Directors have no real function nor really do much. They are political give away positions.= That’s fine and dandy but when they think they have a real job with real duties and the backing of the Gov’s office this is often the result.


  9. - WizzardOfOzzie - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 1:11 pm:

    If you read the report the soliciting contractors to buy pizza was uncovered while investigating what David Phelps did. You can’t ask a contractor to buy you things. Period.

    The Phelps is fascinating. He literally had no answer to what he did for $128,000 a year.


  10. - Judgment Day (Road Trip) - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 1:14 pm:

    Classic example of a small mind only being able to chase small problems. Fifty bucks for pizza? Who cares. Personally, if I’m out on the road working, I dislike eating alone. Fifty bucks for pizza to share is a deal. Just common courtesy, if you ask me.


  11. - JoeVerdeal - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 1:23 pm:

    ILPundit is making a good point….and one worth more attention than the old report (that is so old and stale that it’s amazing that it doesn’t smell like mothballs).

    The “findings” of the IG were rendered at a glacial speed and are of VERY dubious merit. How revealing is it that a political figure would continue to function as a politician when appointed to such an office as Phelps was? Would anyone else in his position function differently?…..in Illinois….???

    As for the question of whether Mr. Phelps “does little work”, the dolt who did the IG’s work must have been blind….or just plain stupid….to have not noticed the increased construction activity in IDOT Districts 7, 8 & 9. Again….Mr. Phelps is and was a POLITICIAN and would be reasonably expected to allocate resources to his home jurisdiction. None of the saints in Central Illinois and Chicago would have done differently.


  12. - Norseman - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 1:30 pm:

    “Despite his title, the IDOT secretary at the time, Quinn appointee Gary Hannig, said Phelps was not part of the management team”

    Wow, only in the Quinn administration is a $128k Assistant Director not considered part of the management team. Although in fairness, I’ve known some whose management input has been less valued than others.

    After Inspector General Ricardo Meza’s successful pizza investigation, he can now focus on the terrible office pools that have been depriving taxpayers of the full focus of these gambling bureaucrats.


  13. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 1:42 pm:

    David Phelps and Office Space seem similar
    “Well, look, I already told you. I deal with the #$%&*! customers so the engineers don’t have to. I have people skills. I am good at dealing with people! Can’t you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?!”


  14. - HaroldVK - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 1:43 pm:

    That Phelps thing cannot possibly be true.

    Gov. Quinn has advised that if we cut the payroll by one more person, orphans will starve.

    As such, Phelps must have been absolutely necessary to the proper functioning of IDOT.

    These false reports must stop.


  15. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 1:48 pm:

    All I thought about when I read this thread was Homer Simpson saying, “mmm… pizza.”


  16. - Kathryn - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 1:58 pm:

    IlPundit’s comments were right on the mark. The IGs office is a joke. Instead of focusing on real corruption, sometimes handed to them by an honest ethical employee,they take the easy ones like pizza. They take years to investigate and spend millions of taxpayer dollars with no results.


  17. - Mouthy - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 2:00 pm:

    IGs: six figure salary, employee giving tip reported to management, employee never knows what action was taken, appointed by officeholder, no supervision, etc. = useless.

    IDOT would be the FIRST Department I’d send in a team to investigate contracts and the books, bar none…..


  18. - Sir Reel - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 2:40 pm:

    Phelps is more the norm than the exception. He’s also indicative of the trend under Blago and Quinn to appoint hacks to meaningless jobs and to make it worse to allow them to set up shop in some obscure office away from agencies’ management. Phelps was referred to as IDOT’s Director for southern Illinois. But there was no such position for northern (or eastern, western or central) Illinois. My former agency had a similar hack for northern Illinois complete with a spatial, well furnished office. Adding to the insult was the wasted travel funds when these people travel to Springfield or Chicago on a regular basis.


  19. - Anon. - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 3:31 pm:

    ==the primary actions which Mr. Phelps undertakes in an official capacity are those that constitute misconduct and abuse of his position.==

    Now THIS is Illinois!


  20. - SMOKE - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 4:37 pm:

    This article doesn’t do justice to the report released by the IG. Go read the actual IG report instead of this mockery before commenting nonsense. Just my two cents!


  21. - Chicago Cynic - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 6:58 pm:

    The OEIG is completely out of touch with reality on this and many other reports. They focus an absurd amount of attention on ridiculously tiny offenses and produce volumes. It’s positively Shakespearean in being ‘much ado about nothing.’ People’s reputations are harmed and for what?

    I STRONGLY support extensive external anti-corruption efforts. But this OEIG is positively clueless.


  22. - fake county chairman - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 9:25 pm:

    the feds could set up a bunch of fed grant money to a state agency and see where the money ends up the legislatures would line up like crack heads


  23. - Emily Booth - Tuesday, Apr 16, 13 @ 9:47 pm:

    There’s more to this story than pizza.


  24. - Patty T - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 7:12 am:

    IDOT has a huge number (billions) of taxpayer dollars in capital projects. As noted above, they are pretty much allowed to give professional contracts to whomever they choose by rule without a lot of accountability. Therein lies the problem where on appearance, buying pizzas or whatever other thing could allow one firm to get more contracts than another.


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