"Things are not always what they seem."
That's the quote from 29th Ward Alderman Isaac Carothers one day after his indictment on charges of accepting $40,000 in home improvements and other favors in exchange for clearing zoning changes in his ward.
"I want people to know that I understand these are serious allegations, and I'm going to treat them like serious allegations," Carothers said, declining to directly answer the charges publicly. "I think that everyone who's in my position, wish that they could talk about the case. But if you take the advice of your lawyer, which I think that you should, then you really shouldn't."
Carothers is accused of accepting the $40,000 in favors from a politically connected developer, in exchange for zoning changes which cleared the way for a lucrative project in his ward. Court documents suggest the alderman wore a wire and secretly recorded other public officials, as part of a cooperation arrangement with the government, after he was confronted with the allegations against him. He would not comment on that today, saying only, "You know I can't be responsible for what's in the newspaper."
But the alderman spoke of the reality of waking up this morning, and seeing the charges against him in print. "It's a terrible feeling to be charged with anything, you know, it's a terrible feeling. Certainly it impacts your life and your family, which is foremost on your mind, but you have to deal with it.
"There's a song that James Brown made which is very prominent," he said. "That song is, 'You've Got to Deal With It'. And that's what I have to do. I have to deal with it."
Carothers is the chairman of the powerful City Council Police and Fire Committee. Asked about the irony of chairing a committee which deals with law and order at a time he himself faces criminal allegations, the alderman said "You added the magic word is 'accused', and I think that's what's significant about this country. You know you can be accused of many different things, but as you indicated, it's an allegation."
Carothers has been the 29th ward alderman since 1999. His grandfather was a State Representative, and his father William was the former alderman in the 28th ward. William Carothers faced similar charges, and served a brief prison term in the early 1980's.