How To Beat City Hall: Sue

Everyone is doing it

Are Chicago taxpayers being played for chumps?

The answer appears to be . . . yes.

"Chicago forks over more money in lawsuits - especially lawsuits against the police - than L.A, Houston, Phoenix, Philly and Dallas put together," the Readerreports, in a story illustrated by a drawing of City Hall as a bulging ATM.

In settlements (and judgments) between January 2005 and June 2008, the Reader found, Chicago has paid out more than $229 million. That pales to the $1.4 billion that the much-larger New York City has paid out, but more than three times what Los Angeles has paid out and far more than third-place Philadephia's $98 million bill.

What is going on here?

It's not so much that Chicago is soft on lawsuits; instead it appears that Chicago is just . . . guilty of a lot of negligence. This is the price of corruption and mismanagement - and brutality.

"Lawsuits involving the police account for about 44 percent of Chicago's settlements and judgments," the Reader reports. "In New York and LA they account for only about a quarter."

And if you think it's getting better, think again.

"Even if you deduct the torture cases, the city still spent more to close police suits in the first half of 2008 than it did for the entire year in 2007, 2006, or 2005.

"And that’s just the bill for the cops. Scores of suits have been filed against other city departments, and through just the first six months of the year Chicago was already on the hook for some $80 million in settlements and court judgments. That’s far more than in any recent year in Chicago - up from about $34 million in 2005. And it doesn’t even include the $12 million spent to settle hundreds of suits related to the Shakman consent decrees, a series of federal court orders banning patronage hiring and firing, or the $11 million it took to settle a dispute with Millennium Park contractors - both paid in 2008 after years of litigation. That’s a total of more than $100 million to close lawsuits from January through June."

So you can fight City Hall - as long as City Hall continues to be negligent. But remember, that's our money they're playing with.

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
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