Head of Chicago's Water Dept. Asked to Resign

The head of the Chicago Water Department and nine employees, including one with close ties to the mayor's family, are being forced out as a result of a recently exposed payroll scandal. The department was already at the center of a hired truck probe and was recently raided by federal investigators.

Department of Water Management Commissioner Richard A. Rice was asked to resign and the rest are being fired, mayoral Chief of Staff Ron Huberman announced Friday.

Huberman explained that the nine employees were all workers at a 24-hour phone hotline for reporting water problems. They allegedly had used each other's identification cards to make it seem they were working when they were not.

Huberman also announced that the Water Department's first deputy commissioner, Brian Murphy, has been named to replace Rice immediately as acting commissioner. A permanent water commissioner will not be named until the mayor completes a previously announced review of all city departments.

Within the next year, the city will also begin utilizing thumbprint scanning for access control at all city facilities to ensure a similar scam does not recur, he said.

The brother-in-law of Cook County Commissioner John Daley, John Briatta, also is among those being fired today.

After receiving an anonymous tip from a city employee last week, Huberman told investigators to view videotapes of employees using the electronic IDs. What they saw led to the decision to fire the city workers.

Also among the accused is Frank Cannatello -- a relative of John Cannatello, who was indicted for allegedly bribing First Deputy Water Commissioner Donald Tomczak to keep giving hired truck business to GNA Trucking, which was owned by John Cannatello's wife and daughter. Other targets include Vanessa Bramlett, Tracey Reid and Michael Alagna.

How long the scam has been going on and how much money it cost the city remains unclear.

The Chicago Sun-TImes & cbs2chicago.com

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