The 12 Most Corrupt Public Officials In Illinois History: William Carothers

This is the first in a series of articles profiling Illinois most egregious, despicible, low-down, corrupt politicians.

Since 1970, 31 Chicago aldermen have been convicted of taking bribes, mail fraud, embezzlement, extortion, or some combination of the above offenses. That’s nearly 20 percent of the total elected in the last 42 years. Can you name another profession, besides governing Illinois or prostitution, that has a 20 percent conviction rate.

In 1983, 28th Ward Ald. William Carothers was sent to prison for extorting $32,500 worth of remodeling work for his ward office from the builders of Bethany Hospital. At first, Carothers appeared to be no worse than any of his other hinky colleagues: Stanley Zydlo, Louis Farina, Tyrone Kenner, penny-ante crooks whose crimes might have been remembered in a smaller town, but who didn’t leave much of an impression in Illinois. This is the major leagues of political corruption.

While Carothers was doing time, he incited his sons to carry out a campaign of violent intimidation against allies of Rep. Art Turner, a West Side political rival. One of Turner’s aides was threatened with a gun. Another suffered a cracked skull. Carothers was forced to pay $152,000 for orchestrating the violence. His son, Isaac, a sheriff’s deputy who organized things on the outside, was fined $25,000.

That kind of behavior is mild for the West Side, where politicians were assassinated as late as the 1950s. By 1999, when Isaac Carothers ran for alderman of the 29th Ward, all was forgiven. He topped an eight-candidate field, then won the run-off.

Now, here’s why William Carothers makes our Top 12. Isaac Carothers committed the exact same crime as his father. In 2009, Isaac was indicted for accepting $40,000 in work on his home from a builder who wanted a zoning change that would allow him to build residences on a former rail yard and industrial site in Galewood. Isaac made the change. In exchange, he got his house painted, inside and out, new windows and central air conditioning. After the feds caught him, Isaac resigned his City Council seat and accepted a 28-month prison term, ending (we hope) the Carothers' dynasty on the West Side.

Not only was William Carothers corrupt, his seed was corrupt, too.

Wednesday: The G-man who helped the Klan take over a small town.


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