Cook County Commissioner Tobolski Resigns Amid Federal Corruption Probe

Jeff Tobolski
Jeffrey R. Tobolski attends the Cook County Board Meeting in downtown Chicago on Feb. 26, 2020. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Jeff Tobolski
Jeffrey R. Tobolski attends the Cook County Board Meeting in downtown Chicago on Feb. 26, 2020. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Cook County Commissioner Tobolski Resigns Amid Federal Corruption Probe

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Updated: 2:57 p.m.

Democratic Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski announced he will resign his public offices Friday, months after a federal raid targeted him and weeks after his top aide was indicted on corruption charges.

In a letter to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Tobolski said his resignation as commissioner would go into effect at the end of the month. He has been a County Board member since 2010.

Also Friday, Tobolski resigned his job as mayor of the tiny southwest suburb of McCook. Both resgnations take effect March 31, according to copies of his resignation letters obtained by WBEZ.

Federal agents raided his office at McCook’s village hall in September. In November, Tobolski resigned from his leadership posts on several County Board committees, but he kept showing up for meetings.

Then, on Feb. 14, federal prosecutors charged his chief of staff, Patrick Doherty, with three counts of bribery related to Doherty’s side job as a “sales agent” for a red-light camera company. Doherty has pleaded not guilty.

Also last month, WBEZ and the Better Government Association reported that a factory owner in Tobolski’s county board district felt pressured to give a campaign contribution to the commissioner while the businessman’s application for a property-tax break from the county was pending.

Tobolski sent the factory owner multiple email messages requesting political cash, at one point suggesting that the company contribute to his campaign fund annually and budget for the expense as if it were a “fixed cost.”

After a village board meeting in McCook last month, Tobolski told WBEZ and the BGA he had no intention of stepping down as mayor of the suburb or as county commissioner unless forced to do so.

Only a criminal conviction would mandate that he quit, and he has not been charged.

“If there is something that requires me to step down, I’ll be the first person to do that,” Tobolski said at the time. “But right now, there’s nothing.”

Tobolski could not be reached for comment Friday. He has declined to comment on the federal investigation. No one at McCook village hall was immediately available to comment Friday afternoon as to whether Tobolski had resigned as mayor, as well.

The search warrant used in the Sept. 26 raid on the tiny, heavily industrial suburb (population 228) shows federal agents sought a long list of documents about Tobolski, Doherty and even the heating and air conditioning at Tobolski’s house.

McCook officials initially refused to release all the records from the federal raid, but relented after WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times sued the village, alleging it had violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Campaign-finance records show Tobolski paid $200,000 from his political war chest to two law firms on Oct. 18.

Tobolski is one of many politicians in the Chicago area and Illinois who are facing federal scrutiny. Former Democratic State Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to bribery and tax evasion charges in January, and the feds also visited the town halls of other southwest suburbs in September.

Federal authorities in the past year also have investigated close allies of powerful Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic Party boss Michael Madigan and Commonwealth Edison, the massive power company, records show.