Could a corrupt political system be a legitimate defense when a city sues a contractor for winning a contract through bribery?
An anonymous contributor alerted me to this Bloomberg Businesswek article, published yesterday, "Stop bribery by legalizing it." So this article is being republished with a new time.
article on aldermanic privilege, "Neighborhoods for sale"), various examples of misuse of funds for private benefit (e.g., the "Hired Truck" scandal), and poor decision-making concerning contracting such as the long term lease deals of their parking meter system and city-owned public parking structures, where the city left at least $1 billion on the table in the favor of the lessees ("Chicago's ongoing debacles: parking and governance" and "A lesson to cities that they need to be very careful when leasing assets to public private "partnerships"").
In one particular case, where a commercial property owner sued for not being able to develop because they refused to pay off an alderman, the court ruled that clearly this system was in fact legal because it is ensconced in how the city operates concerning land use.
Anyway, the City of Chicago is one of the plaintiffs suing a red light camera firm--since fired--which got the contract to operate in the city because of bribes. See the Chicago Tribune article "Chicago sues red light camera firm for $300 million."
The city is suing for the amount they paid out to the company, about $134 million, and are seeking punitive damages, which increases the total amount they are seeking.
Granted the contract was let during the Daley Administration, but I think the defendants could argue that while what they did was wrong, that's the way things work in Chicago.
Which of course is not a legal defense likely to win.
But in any case, it doesn't seem "fair" for companies forced to be corrupt to participate in a political system being penalized by the creators and maintainers of the corrupt system for doing what was expeccted of them.
-- "The system of corruption: when you don't understand "systems", of corruption or anything else, you don't understand outcomes"
-- "The travelogue of the world's Corrupt Cities includes DC, what does that say about us?"
From the description of the book Corrupt Cities: A Practical Guide to Cure and Prevention:
Corrupt Cities is a practical guide to assist in the diagnosis, investigation and prevention of various kinds of corruption. Bringing together both a conceptual and practical framework, the publication is designed for citizens and public officials, especially at the municipal level. The approach presented discourages more controls, more laws and more bureaucracy, while focusing on systematic corruption and its preventive measures. It encourages consideration of the economic costs of corruption, rather than moral or ethical factors, as the driving force behind anti-corruption efforts. It also emphasizes that "fighting corruption should not be considered an end in itself, but an orienting principle for reforming urban administration."
The arguments put forth are supported by examples of anti-corruption strategies, particularly from Hong Kong and La Paz. The publication also includes practical tips to adapt these strategies to difficult scenarios, for example, in cities/communities characterized by political indifference, bureaucratic inertia, and where citizen support may exist but is yet to be mobilized.
Ironically, coming back on the plane I was talking with a college student sitting next to me. She is studying business, at a university in Michigan. I opined that there is something to be said for "competition" in government, given how the oligopolistic "Democratic" control of municipal government in DC leads to terrible behaviors and actions. I didn't even know about this most recent example that decisively proves my point.