by J. J. Quincannon
July 1, 2021
CHICAGO – Democrat Chicago Alderman Carrie M. Austin of the 34th ward indicted on federal bribery charges. Along with her chief of staff, both are accused of conspiring to receive home improvements from building companies seeking city help for a development project in Austin’s South Side Ward.
Austin, 72, is the latest in a string of federal public corruption charges facing senior members of the City Council. Austin, who was appointed in 1994, is the second most senior member of the board after Democrat Ed Burke, who was charged with racketeering two years ago.
Austin faces one count of bribery conspiracy, two counts of bribery using interstate facilities, and one count of lying to the FBI. Chester Wilson Jr., her chief of staff, is charged with bribery conspiracy, two counts of bribery using interstate facilities, and one count of theft of government funds. Austin and Wilson’s court dates have not yet been set.
Plans for a $50 million residential development in Austin’s ward are at the center of the new indictment. In 2016, the owner of the development’s construction company allegedly provided Austin with home improvements, furniture, and appliances, as well as similar benefits for Wilson’s rental properties.
According to the federal investigators, a contractor on the development project paid a $5,250 invoice in June 2017 to cover part of the cost of kitchen cabinets at Austin’s home, ostensibly for the development.
In July 2017, Austin allegedly accepted a contractor’s offer to pay for two “brand new” and “expensive” sump pumps, as well as having a contractor’s relative purchase and install a new dehumidifier. Wilson is also accused of seeking favors from a project contractor, who promised to pay for a portion of a new HVAC system at Wilson’s home because “you help me a lot, and I’ll help you.”