June 18, 2009

The company Suffredin keeps

Larry Suffredin wants to be the next Cook County state's attorney and says he'd fight corruption. But as a lobbyist, he's been working for a man implicated in a mob bombing

Larry Suffredin, a Cook County commissioner (D-Evanston), has come under attack by rivals for his work as a lobbyist on behalf of casino and drug-company interests.

BY ERIC HERMAN AND TIM NOVAK, Chicago Sun-Times, January 30, 2008

Larry Suffredin -- a self-styled reformer running for Cook County state's attorney -- lobbied for a landfill controlled by Fred Bruno Barbara, a businessman once charged with extortion and implicated in the mob bombing of a restaurant, the Sun-Times has learned.

Suffredin, a Cook County commissioner (D-Evanston), has come under attack by rivals for his work as a lobbyist on behalf of casino and drug-company interests. State records show he also lobbied for Kankakee Regional Landfill LLC -- a company tied to Barbara -- in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

"I don't think I've ever met Fred [Barbara] in my life," Suffredin said. "I didn't know he had an interest in it."

Barbara, 59, is a multimillionaire involved in trucking, waste hauling, banking, and other businesses. A friend of Mayor Daley's, Barbara at one time got more than 60 percent of his garbage-hauling business from city contracts. He has also been a consultant to the city's much-criticized blue bag recycling program. He has been arrested five times, including a 1982 arrest for extortion in an FBI sting. Barbara was acquitted in that case -- and has never been convicted of any crime.

During the Family Secrets mob trial last year, Outfit hit man Nicholas Calabrese said Barbara participated in the 1980s bombing of Horwath's Restaurant in Elmwood Park. Barbara is the grandson of Bruno Roti Sr., an organized crime boss, and the nephew of late Ald. Fred Roti, who allegedly represented mob interests on the City Council.

Documents on file with the state list Barbara as Kankakee Regional's manager as far back as May 31, 2006. The company's address is given as 2300 S. Archer Ave., the address of other Barbara businesses. At a hearing held last June, an official from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency identified Barbara as one of three partners in the landfill.

Barbara did not return calls seeking comment.

Kankakee Regional has been trying to build a 240-acre dump in Kankakee since at least 2004. But the project has faced opposition from local groups and from Waste Management, the trash-removal giant that has a competing proposal. Kankakee Regional has been granted a development permit to build infrastructure but not to accept waste, according to IEPA spokeswoman Maggie Carson.

The project has been approved by the Kankakee city council and the Illinois Pollution Control Board, but it is bogged down in litigation and has not opened. In June 2007, Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued Kankakee Regional for illegally dumping construction and demolition debris at the site. That suit and another are pending.

Tom Volini, one of the partners in the project, said the landfill is environmentally sound and the dumping was permitted by the city and under state law.

"The issuance of the Illinois EPA permit is the best evidence of the soundness," said Volini, the brother-in-law of former 48th Ward alderman Marion Volini.

Suffredin -- who has made fighting political corruption central to his campaign for state's attorney -- said he "interacted with the Illinois EPA" and dealt with "hydrology issues" on the landfill's behalf.

Suffredin said he has not worked on the project in over a year, and pointed to a public filing made by his law firm, Shefsky & Froelich, stating it withdrew on July 27, 2007.

"Tom Volini is the only person I ever dealt with on this project," Suffredin said.
Suffredin said he was told "there was a falling out with the partners, and Tom was removed as the person in charge," prompting the Shefsky firm to stop representing the landfill.

But in its own filing dated Aug. 23, 2007, Kankakee Regional lists both Suffredin and the Shefsky firm as its lobbyists. The company has not yet filed a lobbying disclosure form for 2008, according to the secretary of state's office.

Suffredin is competing in a tight race against five other candidates for the Democratic nomination to succeed state's attorney Dick Devine. The winner in the Feb. 5 primary will face Republican Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica. In a recent TV ad, Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool says of Suffredin, ''On the county board he's a reformer. He'll take on political corruption.''

Suffredin said he saw no problem with representing the Barbara-controlled company. "He's not been a client. He's been an owner of a client that I worked for ... If I had directly represented him, it'd bother me," Suffredin said.

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