Did Richard Mell Violate Lobbyist Laws?

Did Richard Mell Violate Lobbyist Laws?
Scrap Metal (Image: NARA Public Domain)

Former Chicago 33rd Ward Alderman Richard Mell might just love the action a bit too much as his seat wasn't officially warmed yet by his daughter, Deborah Mell before maybe getting an early jump on his lobbying career. Problem is, Richard Mell has no credentials as of yet to do so. So the big question is - did Richard Mell violate lobbyist laws? After all, don't Illinois lobbyist laws require anyone engaging in such activity to be registered?

Of course Richard "Dick" Mell isn't much different than any other Chicago Politician; none of them believe rules apply to them and when they are asked about questionable relationships and/or silly things like engineering a little nepotistic deal to keep the money in the family (as Dicky did with his daughter), well they seem to have all the excuses at the ready don't they?

So I am not foolish enough to believe them so they can just keep their excuses for someone else. The fact is Richard Mell should not have approached Alderman Danny Solis regarding a scrap metal business whose owner didn't like the thought of another company competing for city business until he was registered to do so. Then again scrap metal and landfills are lucrative markets and we all know about Mell's affection for landfills don't we? I mean this was the guy who repeatedly denied he was involved in a Joliet Landfill only to learn that he did in fact have "silent ownership" even after a very public family feud and the eventual downfall of his son-in-law former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

That alone should make people question Mell's sincerity whenever he opens his mouth about anything. But hey, this just my own opinion. Still, his past actions seem to warrant a closer look since this is a man who always seems to have an angle or a foot in the fire when it comes to making money off the backs of taxpayers.

And Mell's latest foray into the fire involves a brouhaha among three scrap metal companies with political influence looking to protect their business. However, I believe that once Mell approached Danny Solis to find out if another firm had been "properly vetted" that raises a whole bunch of questions for me. Naturally Dick Mell claims he was just merely trying to arrange a sit-down for Howard Labkon, a friend and owner of General Iron Industries. Labkon, though, also happens to be a big longtime campaign contributor of Mell's.

Of course Labkon has stated that as of yet he hasn't hired Mell as his lobbyist. But I bet that he will soon enough, you know? Why? Because by retiring and negotiating his daughter's ascension to take his former aldermanic seat when he did, Richard Mell also avoided having to comply with a new ethics rule which bars aldermen from lobbying at City Hall for a year after leaving office. That ethics rule conveniently takes effect on January 1, 2014.

Very Smooth Dicky! Although I also think that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel deserves a big hug and squeeze from the Mell's as the lack of any real transparent government continues to allow nepotism to flourish in the City of Chicago. Ahh - the more things change the more they stay the same when it comes to our rigged and corrupt system. What's that? Oh yeah meet the new boss - same as the old boss!

As for General Iron Industries, well I can understand not wanting more competition in a crowded scrap metal industry. But this story gets a little too convoluted for me as one of the principals from Acme Refining would have a 50% stake in a joint venture with Serlin Iron & Metal Company to form Pure Metal Recycling. Pure Metal Recycling meanwhile would operate a new metal shredder in Solis's 25th ward while Acme's Brett Baron, the son of Acme President Larry Baron would hold the 50% stake.

It should be pointed out that Acme has been a regular contributor to the Danny Solis led 25th Ward Regular Democratic Organization and have reportedly given him a total of $32,500 in contributions. They have have also contributed nearly $200,000 to Illinois political campaigns since 1999, including $6,500 to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a $5,000 contribution to Gov. Pat Quinn in June. Pure Metal's lobbyist, meanwhile, is Brian Hynes and is a business partner of Solis’ sister Patti Doyle Solis.

But now for the wacky part of Chicago Scrapgate. Both Acme Refining of Bridgeport and Serlin Iron and Metal were raided one day apart after agents with the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division executed search warrants on them this past Wednesday and Thursday. And man if I didn't know any better this almost smells like something Mell (or someone associated with him) would be involved in, if you know what I mean? After all wasn't it Dick Mell's claims of a state government for sale that ultimately led Fed's to his now imprisoned son-in-law Rod Blagojevich?

These are just my own thoughts and personal opinions, but boy oh boy - the timing of all this couldn't have been any better to reduce the field of scrap metal businesses vying for city work. It must be pointed out, though, that there have been no charges filed of yet. But it will be pretty interesting to see how this story unfolds and how it affects who gets what in the way of scrap metal business from the city.

As for Richard Mell - if he engaged in unregistered lobbying then he should be barred in the future.

 

The following Chicago Sun-Times articles were used as reference:

Richard Mell's Next Gig - Lobbying

Feds Raids Bridgeport Scrap Firm

Feds Raid 2nd Scrap Metal Firm

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  • At first I thought you were talking about the state legislature, but when you said that the City Council "ethics rule" isn't yet in effect answers you question.

    Of course, it is always interesting to try to determine for what the feds were looking. There was the scrap yard in Little Village that got its scrap by stealing school buses from locked yards, too dumb to know that they had gps. But that wasn't a federal matter.

  • In reply to jack:

    I found the timing of the raids to be, well, interesting and coming on the heels of the "vetting" question by Mell. What did he know for him to say that to Solis? After all this was a joint venture from what the Sun-Times wrote and not an entirely new player. But I also find the link between Solis' sister and her business partner as lobbyist for the the venture interesting as well. So lots of questions in my mind. And I think there is more than meets the eye here.

    And yes I do remember that school bus / GPS story. Pretty dumb on their part and not a smart chop-shop operation.

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