Chicago Councilman Caught in Lawn Mowing Patronage Scandal
While Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's former patronage chief Robert Sorich incurs heat from the U.S. Attorney Office, Bernard Stone, 50th Ward Alderman, has been simultaneously named in a class action lawsuit over questionable hiring practices that one city officials says threatens to "tear apart the very fabric of the fair city of Chicago".
The suit comes from neighborhood children who claim that Stone showed favoritism by reserving for his sons the lucrative tasks of mowing the lawn, raking the leaves and shoveling the drive, while denying other qualified applicants.
"The jobs to be done in this neighborhood are supposed to be given to the residents, not to the well-connected relatives of those in power," said Florence Schlemmel, the mother of two boys who were turned down for lawn mowing jobs, and spokesperson for the local amateur lawn mowers union. "We understand that Alderman Stone didn't even accept bids from other boys down the block who would have been happy to work for half of what he is reported to be giving his sons, and corruption like this cannot be allowed to go unpunished."
Schlemmel and other residents of the north side neighborhood decried the cronyism within Stone's dealings, stating that the jobs that his sons do maintaining the length of grass is not only corrupt but also inefficient.
"In the fall, it's leaves that blow into my yard, and in the summer… if I see one more dandelion sprout up in my lawn, I'm going to blame those Stone bastards," bitterly remarked neighbor Bert Langer, who also complained that the highest-paying jobs go to those who need them the least.
"There are many children in this neighborhood who can't afford baseball cards, sodas, candy, Playstations or whatever kids are into these days, but the Stone boys, whose every desire is instantly satiated, are also given, as a matter of course, some of the best paying jobs on the block. That’s just not right."
Spokespersons for the Stones have defended the family's hiring practices. They insist that all factors, including workmanship, previous work experience and Democratic Party membership of the applicant's family, are taken into account when choosing the best boy for the job. The family has vehemently denied that nepotism and corruption is widespread in any of the current hiring practices.
"We are shocked at the brazen and politically-driven attacks on the methods we use to provide gainful employment for the 14-and-under voting block," said Stone through his attorney. "We've seen the way the Wasserstrom kids [across the street] mow that sorry excuse of a lawn, and we expect a higher degree of professionalism in our family."
Stone made clear that he was not punishing the Wasserstrom kids for their "putz" of a Dad, with whom the alderman has been in a running dispute over the flood lights on the front of his house "that are pointed right into my goddamn bedroom window." Stone insists that the Wasserstrom children do not deserve the yard-maintenance jobs he would rather give to his wife and daughter, and that the work done by the other neighborhood boys is no prize either.
"I don't see why I would choose to hire one of the Wasserstrom boys over my own daughter when their edging skills are well-known to be substandard," Stone said. "The only unfair thing happening here is that some people aren't considering the well-being of my lawn before opening their mouths."
Though the family denies any wrongdoing, many continue to hurl accusations at the "house of corrupt clout", as the Stone residence has been nefariously renamed.
"Collusion, collusion!" chanted demonstrators who had been denied jobs as Brian Stone, 12, mowed the lawn on Saturday. The junior Stone was not available for comment on account of there being something wrong with his iPod, which, along with the protesters, apparently impeded his ability to keep the rows parallel.