Waukegan Corruption Charges Fanned Flames

Illinois Police & Sheriff’s News

Waukegan Corrpution Charges Fanned Flames

IPSN Newspaper, April 28, 1997

JUST ONE DAY after Waukegan Mayor Robert Sabonjian’s captive Civil Service Commission voted to fire the city’s striking police, the cops in turn retaliated with an outburst of charges claiming the Mayor and several of his political cronies were knee-deep in their own corruption. A committee of nine striking cops turned over to reporters some 1,500 traffic tickets that had been politically fixed by Sabonjian, several Judges, Aldermen and the State’s Attorney.

Additionally, the police took reporters on a tour of several gambling and prostitution sites that would have been impossible to stay in business if they had not been politically protected.

CHARLES FLETCHER, a veteran Waukegan police officer at the time, recalled some years later that “there were a lot of sore spots. Johnny Huey ran a million dollar game, but he was protected by the Mayor and the Chief. Huey used to be a narcotics dealer. His place was in a high-tension area. We’d be pursuing a suspect and he’d duck into Huey’s. Then we couldn’t do anything about it. We weren’t supposed to go in there,” Fletcher recalled.

About the ill-fated strike, Fletcher later observed, “Everybody kind of got backed against the wall. I guess neither side realized how tough the other side would be.”

CCPA PRESIDENT John J. Flood maintains that the Waukegan police “raised all the right issues. Even though we lost that one, ” he remembers, “the men who lost their jobs in the Waukegan strike represent a whole new level of solidarity among police officers that just simply didn’t exist before then,” he says.

Flood points out that police strikes were almost unheard of around the country before CCPA came on the scene, and CCPA was absolutely the first police union in Illinois to ever carry off a strike and win a signed contract.

‘THE MAJOR police strike before CCPA was Boston in 1919,” Flood says, “and that one was crushed by the military and resulted in Calvin Cooledge being elected President of the United States.”

“In Waukegan, it was politics all the way,” Flood recalls. “Sabonjian liked his tough guy political image. The thing that brought about the strike was his arrogance. He simply would not recognize the needs of his police and their families.”