Investigation of Chicago Teamsters Hired Truck Program Widens

With the reign of the Duff family now over, Chicago might well have an absence of City Hall patronage scandals were it not for its Hired Truck Program.  A reminder that “honest graft” is not a relic of the past, the program thus far has resulted in nearly two dozen guilty pleas.  But one of its less heralded repercussions may be confirmation of widespread suspicions that Teamsters President James P. Hoffa and his loyalists have a habitual blind spot when it comes to corruption.

The City of Chicago created the Hired Truck Program to outsource hauling work to private trucking companies and bypass the standard competitive bidding process.  In practice, the program has been an open invitation to the greased palm to obtain or retain contracts.  Thus far 32 former City workers and trucking officials have been charged in a nearly two-year-old FBI investigation.  The latest two trophies are Anthony Affetto, 66, of Chicago, and Robert Mangiamele, 62, of nearby Mount Prospect, Ill.  The Justice Department on August 19 announced the indictment of the pair, charging they had paid bribes to Donald Tomczak, the City’s ex-first deputy water commissioner.  Tomczak already pleaded guilty in July to racketeering and tax fraud charges.  Thus far, 23 persons have pleaded guilty; none have been acquitted.  One defendant, ex-city supervisor Nick “the Stick” Lococo, has died.

The indictments indirectly may determine if and when the federal government lifts its oversight of the Teamsters, which grew out of an out-of-court civil RICO settlement in 1989.  This July the Teamsters’ in-house anti-crime investigator, former federal prosecutor Ed McDonald, released a report concluding the union was free of corruption.  That report, however, has been disputed by McDonald’s predecessor, Ed Stier, who’d abruptly resigned his post in April 2004, believing that the union was less than serious about rooting out corruption from its ranks.  Stier, himself an ex-prosecutor, charges that the latest report deliberately ignored evidence of a Teamsters-connected foreman in the Hired Truck Program soliciting bribes, while making as much as $90,000 a year on the side by secretly owning a program truck.  (Associated Press, 8/19).