Good Government (?) in da' Region

Friends, we got trouble, I say we got trouble, right here in the "Steel City," and that rhymes with "G," as in Greed, Graft and Gary!

R. O. Johnson, Mayor of Gary   Mayor R.O. Johnson   
- The mayor during the prohibition era

Johnson was convicted by the feds in 1923 of conspiracy to violate the Volstead Act.  He began serving his sentence in 1925.  President Calvin Coolidge, having sympathy for his plight, granted him a pardon after his release.  He ran 2 more times, successfuly, for mayor.  Evidently the citizenry, not surprisingly, did not hold his conviction against him?


Metro Holovachka, City of Gary Controller - Lake County Prosecutor

Elected as a reform county prosecutor in 1952, Metro Holovachka was later convicted of tax evasion and disbarred.

In June 1959, Metro Holovachka was called to testify before the McClellan Committee.  However, the Lake County prosecutor refused to answer numerous questions asked of him by Committee Counsel Robert Kennedy.  (He is pictured here at that 1959 Senate hearing.)

Shortly after his Committee appearance, Holovachka resigned his position.

In 1961, Holovachka was indicted on tax evasion charges for evading $39,000 in taxes for the years 1955 through 1957.  His aggregate income during this period was $179,543 over and above the amount he actually reported.

Holovachka was subsequently convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment.  And in 1964, the Supreme Court of Indiana disbarred him for life.

In the Court's majority opinion, Chief Justice Frederick Landis said:  "It is difficult to conceive of a clearer example of illicit or depraved conduct than that here exhibited by Holovachka, who, in his lust for wealth and power, increased his income from a paltry $5,123 average a year as a lawyer to amounts far exceeding the maximum salary of $12,000 provided by statute for the prosecutor of Lake County.

His receipt in his bank account of $327,000 in small cash denominations which was unexplained by him, obviously was from vice and gambling activities which owed to Holovachka every cent of that money for their continued and successful operation in defiance of the law which it was Holovachka's sworn duty to uphold and enforce.

This was utter depravity and moral turpitude of the rankest sort.

Holovachka was disbarred on four specific charges:  1) for his tax fraud conviction, 2) for failing to prosecute persons guilty of vice and gambling violations, 3) for purchasing and selling bonds in Gary when he was city controller, violating local laws, and 4) for his offensive conduct in his dealings before the McClellan Committee.

Peter Mandich, Mayor of Gary   Mayor Mandich
- Indicted along with Chacharis, but not convicted.  Resigned mayor's office and went on to be elected Lake County Sheriff

Chacharis' more astute predecessor, Mayor Peter Mandich, a U.S. attorney told a federal court, "received large amounts of graft payments, but the evidence does not show that he failed to report the payments as income on tax returns."  Mandich went free.

George Chacharis, Mayor of Gary  Mayor Chacharis
- Assumed mayoralty on resignation of incumbent, Peter Mandich.  He was caught on a tax-evasion charge in 1962 for failure to report $226,686 in kickbacks from contractors doing business with the city.

"It's when you get to the top of the heap that everybody tries to knock you off.  The climb up is tough, but staying on top is tougher."  These words were spoken by Gary, Indiana, Mayor George Chacharis four days before the start of his 1962 income tax evasion trial. One month later, Chacharis was to voluntarily take himself from the top of the heap by resigning from his office as mayorand pleading guilty to conspiracy to evade payment of taxes.

In February 1962, Chacharis and eleven other Indiana men, including the Sheriff of Lake County (Former Gary Mayor Mandich) and five members of the city council of Hammond in 1955, were indicted on income tax charges.

Specifically, the Gary mayor, who immigrated from Greece in 1919, was charged with receiving $226,686 in payoffs from contractors who did business with the city.  Ten city and state officials and citizens served as conduits and intermediates who funneled the kickbacks to Chacharis.

Chacharis was charged with paying only $23,939 tax on $67,120 of declared income for 1955 through 1958, while the government contended he actually had $239,806 in income and should have paid $191,355 in taxes.

After his guilty plea, Chacharis was sentenced on January 18, 1963, to serve three years in prison and pay a fine of $10,000.

As an aside:  I personally observed the former mayor standing on the street, at his brother's used car dealership near 35th and Broadway, at a point in time when he was supposed to be serving his sentence in the federal pen?

A. Martin Katz, Mayor of Gary  Mayor Katz

Rig an Election? No, not in Gary!  (Friday, Nov. 17, 1967)

IN a last-ditch attempt to defeat Gary's first black mayoral candidate, Richard Hatcher, the local Democratic machine set out to steal the vote in vintage Tammany Hall style. The machine under Boss John Krupa, was just the outfit to do it. Krupa dropped from the registration lists the names of 5,286 voters, mostly Negroes. At the same time, hundreds of fictitious registrations were added so that paid impostors could cast ballots against Hatcher. Since his winning margin last week was only 1,389 votes, the scheme undoubtedly would have worked.

Hatcher was one step ahead of the machine. He fired off a telegram to Attorney General Ramsey Clark. He also charged in Federal Court that Krupa and others were violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965. His charges drew nationwide attention and brought demands for federal action from both of Indiana's Democratic Senators, Vance Hartke and Birch Bayh.

Within two days, all the names purged from the registration lists were quietly restored. Clark dispatched 22 FBI agents to Gary. They began photographing records in Lake County's Crown Point courthouse, and made a name-by-name check of new voters in white neighborhoods. Soon they found enough evidence of registration irregularities for a Government suit charging discrimination.

A day before the election, a panel of three federal judges heard the combined suits of Hatcher and the Government. The most damaging testimony came from a veteran Democratic precinct committeewoman, greying, matronly Marian Tokarski, 35, a party official for twelve years. She testified that she had been instructed by Democratic workers to register fictitious voters in her all-white precinct in Glen Park. In all, testified Mrs. Tokarski, she added 51 fraudulent names to the registration rolls.

"They told me that we would have to cheat because the other side was cheating," Mrs. Tokarski said out of court. "They had me believing that Hatcher was a Communist. But what I was doing began to bother me. I just couldn't live with it."

As an aside:  I know Ms. Tokarski.  her son and I were schoolmates and friends.  If my recollection serves me right, Ms. Tokarski also served from time-to-time as a substitute den mother for my cub scout pack. 

With rumors of violence spreading in some white neighborhoods, Gary's entire 268-man police force was put on a twelve-hour shift, and Democratic Governor Roger D. Branigin ordered 300 state troopers and 5,000 National Guardsmen to be ready to move into the city on 30 minutes' notice. As it turned out, incumbent Gary Mayor A. Martin Katz noted, "This was the most peaceful election in Gary's history." It was also an election in which the incumbent, Katz, lost to Hatcher.

Scott King, Mayor of Gary   Mayor King

The move (resigning) ended days of speculation, with rumors ranging from him taking a job with the Daniels administration to a pending indictment.  Over the past several years federal agents have been eyeing Gary city and school government.  But last week, an indictment had been dropped against Deputy Mayor Geraldine Tousant, who then resigned.  That set in motion King’s decision to bring former nine-term North Township Trustee Dozier Allen Jr., on as deputy mayor.  There was speculation that Allen would serve out King’s term that expires in 2007.  But Lake County Democratic Chairman Rudy Clay expects to hold a caucus within 30 days to choose a successor.

Jewell G. Harris Sr., once one of the most powerful political figures in Gary, goes on trial Monday on charges that he bilked the city out of $1.5 million while working on the $45 million baseball stadium.  Harris, former Mayor Scott King’s campaign manager until the two had a bitter split, is charged with seven counts of money laundering and mail and wire fraud stemming from work Harris did hauling debris from the stadium site in 2001.

Rudy Clay, Mayor of Gary   Mayor Clay

The Post-Tribune reports in a breaking news story that Gary Mayor Rudy Clay’s son — Rudy Clay, Jr. — was awarded a $25,000 six-month contract to videotape and photograph events in the city of Gary that weren’t already "covered by the existing employees who film public meetings for the government access channel."

The contract that begin in July 2007 was approved on December 26, 2007, according to the newspaper.


Gary School Board
Gary School Board member, Andrea Ledbetter, is best known for taking a trip to Japan -- $3,144 is still owed to Gary schools -- using Gary school funds.  The purpose of the trip, to see her then boyfriend!

The Gary School Board hired the husband of one of its members for a job Tuesday without receiving a disclosure of the relationship as required by law.  The board voted to hire James Woodson, husband of Andrea Ledbetter, as a temporary Teamster at a salary of $30 an hour.  Ledbetter abstained from the vote, but did not acknowledge the marital relationship or that she would financially benefit from the employment during a discussion Tuesday.

Gary Chief of Police

March 7, 2008
By Jon Seidel Post-Tribune staff writer

GARY -- Hours into crisis control after his administration suffered its first federal indictment, the city's distressed mayor pondered Thomas Houston's future as chief of police.

"It's extremely difficult to have a police chief that's under indictment," Mayor Rudy Clay said, "but we're still assessing what we're going to do."

Now, here is a man of insight. Thank God Gary has a leader the citizens can turn to in time of crisis!  -GDY 

Chief ousted in wake of indictments

March 11, 2008
By Jon Seidel Post-Tribune staff writer

GARY -- The Thomas Houston is expected to step down as chief of the Gary Police Department today, to be replaced by an officer who will serve on an interim basis.

Deputy Chief Thomas Branson and Sgt. Thomas Decanter will be reassigned within the department, Mayor Rudy Clay said Monday afternoon.  Houston is expected to retire. All three are accused in a federal indictment of violating suspects' civil rights after a burglary in June at the chief's home.

On 12 Mar 2008 Chief Houston resigned and Mayor Clay named a new (interim) chief.  The person named is the sixth chief of police for the Gary P. D. in less than 18 months.  Let's see, that works out to an average term of office of 3 months!

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Created 21 Feb 2008 - 10:06:24 Hrs.

© 2008, G. David Yaros.  All rights reserved.