Water Scandal Leaks Into Local Chicago Race

The sleepy streets of Joliet are nearly an hour's drive from Chicago, but the race for state's attorney here has been overshadowed by the big city, with talk of Chicago contractors squeezed for campaign money and legions of patronage jobholders driving out to campaign.

The Will County prosecutor's race had coasted along with little fanfare until last Thursday, when State's Attorney Jeff Tomczak's (search) father, Chicago's retired first deputy water commissioner, was charged with bribery and fraud in the city's scandal-plagued Hired Truck Program (search).

"Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that this would happen," Tomczak said of the twist his race has taken.

Federal prosecutors say Donald S. Tomczak (search) decided which trucking companies got jobs hauling materials for the department under the program and doled out work in exchange for payoffs and campaign contributions to an alderman and an unnamed Candidate A, a relative.

Prosecutors won't say who Candidate A is, but even Donald Tomczak's attorney has said he believes it's the son.

A complaint charging trucking company agent Joseph Ignoffo, one of seven men charged in the scandal so far, says Ignoffo bribed Donald Tomczak with payoffs and three campaign contributions totaling $2,500 to Candidate A. State records show Ignoffo Trucking Co. and its owners made three contributions totaling $2,500 to Jeff Tomczak at about the same time.

Jeff Tomczak says he had no idea until recently that there could be an ethical problem involving the source of some of his campaign money. He says he gave $20,000 from his campaign fund to a Joliet community center to offset any money from people connected to the Hired Truck Program.

"If he doesn't know what's going on here, then he doesn't have the wits to be a prosecutor," says his challenger, Democrat Jim Glasgow. "It's unbelievable for him to feign ignorance."

Glasgow, a 53-year-old trial lawyer who served two terms as Will County state's attorney but lost to Tomczak in 2000, is still raising questions about thousands of dollars that Tomczak's father and mother donated to their son's campaign fund over the last five years.

"Were did he get that money?" Glasgow says. "They haven't explained that."

Tomczak, 44, grew up among Chicago Democrats. His father was a precinct captain in the 11th Ward — the home base of Mayor Richard M. Daley's family. The son held a patronage job as a city sewer worker while going to John Marshall Law School. On graduation, he became a Will County assistant state's attorney and joined the Republican Party in a county where Republicans typically dominate.