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More questions to ask Chris Welch

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Bill Dwyer View Drop Down

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    Posted: 11/December/2013 at 12:22pm

Now that Emanuel “Chris” Welch has survived a scare in his inaugural campaign for state rep and won a seat in the Illinois House by 36 votes, he's getting the sort of financial and political support he could only dream of as a school board president. 

No less a political powerhouse than House Speaker Michael Madigan has lined up squarely behind Welch in his second primary campaign. If the last primary is any indication, Madigan will dump many tens of thousands of dollars into Welch's campaign through transfers or in kind donations. 

But a June 25, 2003 deposition of Welch offers some insight into what Welch believed was appropriate regarding politics and employees over which he had influence back when he was a simple high school board president.

Welch was answering questions under oath that day regarding the Gino Trombetta federal civil rights case against Welch, the D209 board and Melrose Park mayor Ron Serpico. D209 lost that case, and Welch arranged to have D209 pay a majority portion of Serpico's $750,000 settlement liability, despite Serpico having absolutely no formal relation to the school district as either an employee or elected official. 

Just a political connection to Welch.

In that deposition, Welch stated that while Mike Manzo was president of the D209 school board, maintenance workers at the high school “were mandated by Mr. Manzo and those guys to work the election or they were going to be fired.”

Of course, Welch couldn’t name a single person when asked how he knew Manzo was coercing employees.

“Too many to name,” Welch replied. One would think with all those possible names, he could recall at least one name and state it while under oath.

Of course, Welch would never coerce anyone in D209’s employ. Coercion would be wrong and illegal. Welch testified he used a carrot, not a stick, offering incentives to people who repeatedly gave up their time voluntarily during the campaign. 

Unlike the “too many to name” workers that Welch alleges Manzo forced to work on a political campaign,  by his own account Welch enjoyed the purportedly volunteer services of “quite a few” D209 employees during the D209 board race in 2003. 

Welch didn't say exactly how many people willing gave up their free time for his benefit during what he termed "a friendly competition." Though one can presume he could have named them if he really cared to, since he acknowledged he was “keeping attendance.”

Actually, he did name three volunteers, including Fred Gianneschi, then the building manager at Proviso East and who now earns $106,290. He acted as Welch’s driver on election day 2003. Angelo Calcagno, who now makes $106,290 as a building manager at Proviso West, won a trip to Las Vegas, complete with “spending money,” according to Welch, in a lottery for volunteers.

The Students First Party's D2 shows the campaign had $6,880 in expenditures, all but a few hundred dollars itemized. It would be interesting to see if airline tickets and cash payouts are on that form filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections. 

From the June 25, 2003 deposition:

Question: What’s your source of that information (regarding the Manzo allegations)?

Answer by Welch: Janitors themselves.

Question: Which janitors told you that?

Answer by Welch: You can call them all in. They’ll tell you.

Question: Give me some names.

Answer by Welch: Too many to name.

Question: Did you work the April ’03 board election?

Answer by Welch: Yes, sir.

Question: On behalf of Mrs. Kelly?

Answer by Welch: Absolutely.

Question: Who drove you around on election day?

Answer by Welch: Election day, sometimes I was with Mr. Gianneschi and sometimes I was alone.

Question: So, Mr. Gianneschi worked that election driving you sometime during, right?

Answer by Welch: We went around from time to time, yes.

Question: How many District 209 employees did you see out there with those t-shirts for campaign workers?

Answer by Welch: There were quite a few.

Question: More than 20?

Answer by Welch: Quite a few.

Question: All the maintenance guys worked that election, didn’t they?

Answer by Welch: There were quite a few.

Question: You don’t have any suspicion that any of those maintenance workers were told to work that election, do you?

Answer by Welch: I know what they were told.

Question: You know what they were told. What were they told?

Answer by Welch: We had a friendly competition. We awarded two trips to Las Vegas plus spending money. We said whoever voluntarily works for us and if you come out on a regular basis, we’re keeping attendance, we said we’ll award somebody from East a free trip plus spending money to Las Vegas and somebody from West a free trip plus spending money to Las Vegas. And it was extremely successful.

Question: Who won?

Answer by Welch: From Proviso East we awarded a trip and spending money to (Proviso East maintenance worker) Carl Grace, and from Proviso West, we awarded the money- the award to Angelo Calcegno. (sic)

Question: When and how were these employees told this.

Answer by Welch: I told them. Mr. Gianneschi told them. Mr. Santiago told them. We had weekly meetings at the political office people would attend, and we would say it there. It was a competition. It was extremely successful, because we had a lot of people help us out.” 

Ten years later, Welch still has a lot of people helping him out. Though I doubt he's offering Mike Madigan the opportunity to win a trip to Vegas for his efforts. Maybe if Madigan offered to serve as his driver? 

Edited by Bill Dwyer - 11/December/2013 at 9:05pm
Facts are a bitch and the truth most hurts the liars
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