Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Indicted lawmaker unlikely to face immediate House reprimand

By Jamey Dunn

There seems to be little appetite in the Illinois House to take any disciplinary action against indicted Chicago Democratic Rep. La Shawn Ford.

Ford is accused of lying to the now-defunct ShoreBank, which was located in Chicago. A federal indictment alleges that Ford, a real estate developer, told the bank that a $500,000 line of credit was for his business but instead used the money on personal expenses, including mortgage payments, campaign costs and gambling debts. Ford, who says he is innocent, faces 17 criminal counts.

But unlike former Rep. Derrick Smith, who is accused of taking a bribe in exchange for helping a business get a state grant, it appears that the charges against Ford are not directly related to his duties as a lawmaker. That may make all the difference in terms of whether Ford will face disciplinary action in the House. “We’re going to digest that and not going to do anything at the moment,” House Minority Tom Cross said of Ford’s indictment. “We’re kind of curious to see what the Democrats are going to do at the moment. We’re evaluating it right now, and we’ll take a look at it. I think there’s a distinction between Ford and Smith in that Smith’s involved his office; we’re not sure Ford’s does.”

The House voted in August to remove Smith from office. However, Smith won the general election for his former seat and plans to return to the House in January when the new legislature is sworn in.

When asked what his thoughts were on the indictment and whether Ford should be disciplined, Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, said, “I have no thoughts.”

Ford said he plans to stay in his position in the House and declined to discuss the indictment today. “I’ve had a great day in the legislature today,” he said. But Ford did respond in a statement on his website shortly after the indictment was made public. “This has happened quickly; I became aware of this issue not long ago. I believe I am innocent of the charges brought against me today. An indictment is an accusation, not a conviction that the law was broken. I believe I did not break the law, and I look forward to the truth being told and justice being served. My family and I are grateful for all of the support we have received during this time.”

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