Instead of icy stares or worse, Cook County Commissioners William Beavers and John Daley had smiles and a handshake for each other Wednesday when they met face-to-face for the first time publicly since Beavers was indicted and promptly said prosecutors really wanted Daley.
“Hey John,” said Beavers, calling Daley over. “I want everyone to see this.” Daley approached, smiled and the handshake was on.
Daley then left the meeting room. Beavers told reporters he would not have anything further to say until Friday, when he is arraigned on federal charges that he failed to pay the required federal income taxes after taking both campaign funds and county expense money as personal income.
Taking a portion of his campaign funds for personal use equal to the amount he had on hand before state law changed in 1998 was legal. So was taking county expense funds as income until May 2009. But in each case, taxes had to be paid.
Between 2006 and 2008, Beavers took more than $225,000 from three campaign funds he controls, converting some of it to personal use, according to the indictment byU.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Beavers gambled with some of the money and put $68,000 into a city pension fund to more than double his monthly pension payments, the indictment alleges.
After last Thursday’s indictment was announced, Beavers said FBI agents had asked him to wear a wire on Daley. Beavers said he was charged because he refused to become “a stool pigeon.” Daley said he knew of no investigation.
Politicians who know both men and work with them on the County Board said Beavers and Daley have had a frosty relationship since the Beavers left the City Council in November 2006 to become a county commissioner.
Daley is chairman of the Finance Committee, which on Wednesday recommended changing the tobacco tax ordinance a day before county taxes on cigarettes are extended to cigars and loose-leaf tobacco.
The changes deal mostly with legalese and are designed to thwart a lawsuit tobacco sellers filed against the county after the board last year expanded the types of tobacco that are taxed to raise about $12 million a year.
“They were about to win the lawsuit,” said Commissioner Larry Suffredin, D-Evanston. “That’s when this (amendment) came up.”
Commissioners gave tobacco retailers one break by removing a clause that would have required them to pay taxes on all cigars and loose-leaf tobacco in stock as of midnight Wednesday. As a result, the county expects to collect about $800,000 less this year, officials said.
Not charging the inventory tax “would take the salt out of the wound,” said John Coakley, owner of Guess Hookah, a tobacco shop on North Lincoln Avenue. He and other small retailers say the new taxes, which could push the cost of a carton of smaller cigars to $65 from $9 by the start of next year, could put them out of business.
People also will leave the county or turn to the web to buy tobacco, the sellers said.
“It’s not going to get you guys any more money,” said Jordan Hirsch, owner of Cigar King in Skokie. “You are going to lose money. Don’t you see that?”
County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s administration contended the higher tobacco taxes are good public health policy that will help reduce teen smoking.