John Bills, the central figure in a massive corruption scheme at City Hall, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for taking up to $2 million in bribes and gifts in return for steering tens of millions of dollars in red light camera contracts to an Arizona company.
The sentence came moments after Bills choked up in a packed federal courtroom and apologized for his actions and the shame it brought to his family.
Bills, 55, who rose through City Hall as part of the political patronage army of longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, faced up to 30 years in prison for personally profiting in exchange for helping grow the city’s $600 million red-light camera program into the largest in the nation.
* Austin Berg with the Illinois Policy Institute…
Prosecutors do not allege improper behavior by Madigan. But his involvement in Bills’ scheming is a case study in how entrenched political gatekeepers run the show in Illinois.
Yep on both counts. More from his piece…
Bills was a top-performing precinct captain for Madigan’s ward operation for decades. And he began his career in Chicago’s Bureau of Electricity, “dubbed ‘Madigan Electric’ due to the number of 13th Ward loyalists employed there,” according to the Tribune.
Not only did Bills help Redflex buy its way into the city’s red-light-camera business, but he also worked to expand Redflex’s presence in Chicago to include speed cameras and stop-sign enforcement.
Federal prosecutors’ evidence showed Bills met with Madigan to discuss speed cameras.
In April 2010, O’Malley sent an email highlighting Bills’ efforts: “JB has talked to Speaker of the house Matigan [sic] about Speed. Time for you to have private meeting & presentation!!!”
Less than a year later, Madigan sponsored state legislation allowing speed cameras in Chicago. Former Gov. Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 965 into law Feb. 6, 2012.