In what may turn out to be the biggest single corruption case Chicago has seen, a traffic camera company whose business is catching people who cheat has admitted that it spent roughly US$2 million ($2.4 million) over four years on a barely disguised bribery scheme to support and expand its lucrative contracts with the city's transportation department.
Even in a place accustomed to gritty political practice, the case of Redflex Traffic Systems and its dealings with a local consultant and a now-retired top transportation manager identified as John Bills has caused a collective intake of breath. A company whose business is catching people who cheat has now been caught itself. And it's a bit more serious than just running a red light.
A subsidiary of an Australian holding company headquartered in Arizona, Redflex confessed to the scheme in filings with Australian financial authorities and in meetings at the weekend with the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel.
The wrongdoing was first brought to light last year by the Chicago Tribune which reported allegations made by a whistleblower at the company.
Among dealings that the authorities would likely consider bribery were 17 all-expenses-paid holidays for Bills in Arizona and California.
A greater focus of the inquiry, however, was on fees totalling US$1.57 million paid to a Chicago consultant connected to Bills. Top executives at Redflex's US subsidiary have been fired.