A red-light camera company seeking business from Berwyn has had links to a politically connected lawyer who does legal work for the city and has contributed to the mayor's political campaign.
A document provided by the Illinois secretary of state's office shows that attorney Michael Del Galdo was affiliated with the red-light camera firm, SafeSpeed LLC of Chicago, as recently as Sept. 8.Del Galdo -- of Del Galdo Law Group LLC in Berwyn -- was retained by Berwyn to do periodic legal work for the city after the election of Mayor Robert Lovero, according to Lovero. All of the billing records pertaining to his services are not available, but the city paid Del Galdo $8,630 for legal work in June alone, according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
Campaign disclosure records indicate that Del Galdo contributed $1,000 in the spring to Lovero's campaign fund.
Del Galdo also serves as municipal attorney for neighboring Cicero, where his father-in-law is part owner of a controversial towing company contracted to do work for the town.
SafeSpeed filed a document with the secretary of state's office withdrawing Del Galdo's name as a member of the company Sept. 8, the day aldermen held a City Council meeting to consider hiring Safe- Speed for three years, according to records.
Aldermen deferred the matter until their council meeting Tuesday because a police official was not at the Sept. 8 meeting to answer questions about SafeSpeed. The city already has an active contract with another company, RedSpeed-Illinois LLC, but a high-ranking Berwyn police official maintains that SafeSpeed would be less expensive. Officials say the city could wind up having two red-light camera companies for a while. The cameras are installed at intersections to record motorists who go through red lights.
Del Galdo said he had no idea he was listed as a member of Safe- Speed. He said he learned about it while viewing a blog about Berwyn.
"I have no affiliation with Safe- Speed," said Del Galdo. "I do not have an economic interest in Safe- Speed and will not, directly or indirectly, benefit financially or otherwise should the city of Berwyn enter into a contract with SafeSpeed."
He added that he has no contract with the company.
However, at least one Berwyn alderman, Margaret Paul, 3rd, said she will not vote for a contract with SafeSpeed because of the connection with Del Galdo and because other companies aren't being considered.
Better Government Association Executive Director Andy Shaw questioned Del Galdo's involvement too.
"The deal here is that people who are connected and give to the mayor get an inside boost when it comes to helping friends get contracts," Shaw said. "Even if [Del Galdo] is not on the masthead anymore, there still is an inside connection with this company."
Del Galdo acknowledges he is a longtime friend of SafeSpeed president and owner Nikki Zollar and helped her in 2006 to fill out paperwork to start up SafeSpeed. Del Galdo said perhaps his name was registered then. He suggested it was a coincidence officials withdrew his name the day of the City Council meeting.
"I don't know why it took them so long," he said.
A letter Thursday from Zollar to Lovero sought to "clarify" Del Galdo's role, saying "as SafeSpeed matured and took on customers throughout Illinois, Mr. Del Galdo relinquished his positions as a member."
Zollar did not respond to requests for comment.
Two days before Zollar's letter was dated, Lovero said he knew nothing about Del Galdo's affiliation with the company.
Lovero said other mayors recommended SafeSpeed. A Berwyn alderman said SafeSpeed officials told the City Council that the company was in four suburbs: Chicago Heights, Country Club Hills, Hillside and Stone Park.
As for Zollar, Lovero said, "We've been told she runs a good company. It's also a minority-owned company, which appealed to me."
In July 2006, Berwyn Police Chief William Kushner urged city officials to hire RedSpeed, which wasn't even incorporated in Illinois until a week after it was recommended. Kushner said he liked RedSpeed's track record outside Illinois and the fact its cameras could be used at railway crossings.
On Sept. 3, newly appointed Deputy Police Chief Joseph Drury wrote a memo to the City Council urging that Berwyn consider another vendor because of the "economic disadvantage set forth by the existing vendor agreement." Drury said SafeSpeed would require no monthly service fees like RedSpeed. The company would take a percentage of fines levied against red-light-running motorists.
"If the council sees fit to approve SafeSpeed, we will use both companies," Lovero said. "We will put [the companies] side by side to see which is best."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun