In respect to your article [Hot Type] in the February 25, 2000, edition, in order to be factual please be advised that it was in February of 1997, after subpoenaing the driving license records regarding Ricardo Guzman, when I first became suspicious of illegal activity within the Secretary of State’s Office. His records indicated that he obtained his CDL by an “oral” exam, which was contrary to their written policy, because he could not “comprehend English,” which is a violation of federal law. When I sent a second subpoena seeking his actual written exam, I received fewer records regarding Ricardo Guzman. Most importantly, the Secretary of State’s Office omitted the record that indicated he took an “oral” exam because he could not “comprehend English.” My suspicion was heightened.
In December of 1997, as I prepared for Mr. Guzman’s deposition, my client, Scott Willis, received a phone call from an anonymous source (Tony Berlin), which he referred to me. This source informed me of documented rampant corruption that existed within that office since 1992. The extent of corruption, which included a system of taking bribes from incompetent drivers in exchange for CDLs and putting the money in Mr. Ryan’s campaign fund, was astounding.
I took Mr. Guzman’s deposition in December of 1997 and questioned him regarding his CDL exams. His sworn testimony was completely contradicted by the Secretary of State’s records. I confirmed with the anonymous source that McCook manager Mr. George Velasco (since convicted) gave Guzman his oral exam and McCook supervisor Marion Seibel (since convicted) gave him his road test. Later, Mr. [Gonzalo] Mendoza (a Ryan contributor and convicted felon) admitted he brokered Mr. Guzman’s license in exchange for a bribe. Mr. Guzman later took the Fifth. In January of 1998, Tony Berlin started sending me his logs documenting the scheme.
After Tony Berlin expressed his reluctance to testify I convinced Tammy Raynor, who was being harassed by Mr. Ryan’s administration and had been transferred from McCook to Bridgeview, to give a deposition to obtain whistle-blower status in late January. Mr. Ryan’s office tried to have an attorney from his office present at the deposition to intimidate Tammy, but we would not allow him in the room. I took Marion Seibel’s deposition and found she raised $82,000 from trucking companies, driving schools, and other companies she regulated for Mr. Ryan’s campaign and later obtained the receipts from her by subpoena. I took Mr. Velasco’s deposition, who testified he never gave an “oral” exam to Mr. Guzman and failed to produce a complete set of Guzman’s records, despite a subpoena which showed he did in fact give the exam.
Tammy gave a deposition in January of 1998 providing documentation backing up her allegations of graft and confirming what Tony Berlin had told me regarding systemic corruption within Mr. Ryan’s office.
In February of 1998, Tammy’s mother wrote a letter and handed it to Mrs. Ryan at a fund-raiser. She in turn promised that she would give it to her husband, the Secretary of State, George Ryan. In the letter was a copy of Tammy’s deposition subpoena. According to Tammy, two days later an administrator and inspector general Dean Bauer had a phone conversation with her and told her that despite their wishes George Ryan was allowing her to be transferred back to McCook. The conditions on her return to McCook were that she provide them with a copy of her deposition so they could begin damage control, have her mother no longer write letters to Mr. Ryan, and only work through Dean Bauer (since indicted) in the future. After she gave them a copy of her deposition she was transferred back to McCook.
In February of 1998, after Tammy’s deposition, because of the lack of success that Tony Berlin had in the past in going to other governmental agencies, I decided to seek out a friend of a mutual friend who worked for ABC about this story. I never “shopped the story around.” I did not view this as a “good story.” I viewed this as one of the most tragic cases imaginable. I had learned that the Secretary of State’s Office was a cesspool of corruption since 1992. Russell Sonneveld tried to root out corruption and was stymied in every case. His detailed reports of corruption and illegal CDL sales by McCook supervisor Marion Seibel and Melrose Park manager Mary Ann Mastrodomenico never even resulted in a reprimand. This bribery scheme had prospered for at least six years.
Through my investigation with the assistance of honest employees of Mr. Ryan’s office, I learned that when employees tried to ameliorate conditions at McCook and elsewhere they were demoted, harassed, transferred or given menial, degrading tasks to perform. The fact that six children could die and the same corrupt scheme was allowed to continue and flourish was incomprehensible to me. As far as I was concerned, this was the worst political scandal in the history of this country. Public safety was compromised for greed’s sake. When one looks at political scandals such as Teapot Dome, Orville Hodge, Watergate, Paul Powell, Travelgate, etc, we must remember no one died.
Despite the adverse publicity beginning in April 1998, we recently learned during the late summer of 1998 Mary Ann Mastrodomenico brazenly even sold a license to a man allegedly responsible for countless injuries and two deaths in a seventy-three car pileup in California. This is further evidence that this conduct has heretofore gone unchecked during Mr. Ryan’s entire tenure.
There should and must be accountability for all those public employees and officials involved in the corruption within Mr. Ryan’s office. The bribe takers, the obstructors of justice and the harassers of whistle-blowers must and should go to jail to deter similar conduct in the future. These bribes were solicited by Mr. Ryan’s handpicked managers–Velasco, Seibel, and Mastrodomenico–and channeled into his campaign fund. People who tried to expose this scheme were harassed by some of his handpicked administrators. Investigations were quashed, according to witnesses and a federal indictment, by his handpicked inspector general and lifelong friend Dean Bauer. The buck stopped right with Mr. Ryan’s campaign fund. He spoke so freely during the campaign while other indictments were pending. He now refuses to speak to this issue. I understand why! As an elected public official, he has failed miserably in respect to his primary responsibility of ensuring public safety. He should and must be held accountable so that the deaths of six innocent children will not have been in vain.
Joseph A. Power Jr.
Power, Rogers & Smith, P.C.