HARVEY, Ill. — The new mayor of south suburban Harvey says he’s astonished by what he inherited.
In room after ransacked-looking room, city records seem to explode out of stacks of boxes which nearly reach the ceiling. There are utility records and requests for death certificates in a stairwell closet. In a basement office, reams of records have been dumped alongside a singing Santa stuffed in a box.
“We understand now why we lose or settle so many lawsuits because if this is how you keep your records, you’re headed down a slope that’s no good and it will cost you a lot of money,” said newly-appointed Mayor Christopher Clark, who took over last week.
The trashing of the town doesn’t end at City Hall. Last week, the new regime chained up the community center and slapped a “condemned” sign on the building because of mold, mildew and a leaky roof. Inside, WGN found a turned-over pool table and a makeshift bar.
Clark ousted Harvey’s longtime Mayor Eric Kellogg after engineering the passage of a term-limit law. Kellogg ran the south suburb for 16 years, and his name is everywhere. His term expired soon after the Feds raided city hall.
Kellogg was not charged, but two of his brothers and a cousin were among six charged in an extortion and bribery scheme in March. Among other things, the criminal complaint says a strip club operator said Kellogg required three to six thousand dollars each month in kickbacks to turn a blind eye to prostitution.
At Kellogg’s home his Mercedes and Jaguar were in the driveway, but he’s changed his phone number and doesn’t answer the door.
“What the FBI did is give us indications of what we’ve known for years: there are problems in Harvey, and now I’m in a position to do something about it,” Clark said.
Now in City Hall, Mayor Clark says HR records are so bad he doesn’t have confidence that all of the more than 200 people who receive city checks actually work for the city. An outside audit of the city released in February found: “It is not always clear who, if anyone, is currently tasked with certain essential financial functions.”
“I’m very concerned there are ghosts on the payroll,” Clark said.
Clark is so concerned he’s refusing to hand out checks until he can confirm those who claim to be employees actually “work” for the city. He cancelled direct deposit and is requiring everyone to actually show up Friday and prove they should collect a paycheck.
The FBI doesn’t comment on ongoing investigations, but an attorney for one of the men charged in March said it’s clear to him Harvey’s former mayor is facing serious federal scrutiny .