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Tunney Phone Call Improper in Sex Shop Biting Case, City Inspector Says

By Serena Dai | July 22, 2013 3:58pm | Updated on July 22, 2013 4:50pm
 The city's Legislative Inspector General said that Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) abused his power by trying to "tamper with" a potential witness in a criminal investigation.
The city's Legislative Inspector General said that Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) abused his power by trying to "tamper with" a potential witness in a criminal investigation.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

LAKEVIEW — Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) abused his authority by trying to "tamper with" a potential witness in a criminal investigation, a report by the city's Legislative Inspector General said Monday.

Inspector General Faisal Khan's semi-annual report did not name the alderman, but information on the investigation matched earlier reports where Tunney left local business owner Mark Thomas a voicemail about assistant state's attorney Sarah Naughton.

Naughton, 31, was accused last fall of drunkenly confronting employees at Thomas's lingerie and sex shop Taboo Tabou, flashing her badge and biting an employee. She was acquitted in April.

During the case, Tunney left Thomas a voicemail asking to "help the person," mentioning that he went to high school with one of Naughton's attorneys. 

"It's a really delicate situation for the young woman, and I understand that you've been at court with Fox News or something like that," Tunney said. "My only suggestion is, let's try to help the person, she obviously had a bad night, and we don't need to continue to hurt her dignity about this issue."

Tunney goes on to tell Thomas "do what you need to do" and "let the court do what the court needs to do."

Thomas said he felt "bullied" by the alderman. He had been trying to reach the alderman about sewer main construction without success, only to hear from him about the Naughton case, he said at the time. The audio of the voicemail can be heard here.

"Tunney was choosing a high school friend who is the attorney for the accused over me, a long-time business owner in his ward," Thomas said at the time.

Khan, whose office was created in 2011 to investigate members of City Council, said the alderman testified that he was seeking to protect the ward by keeping businesses out of the news.

But when questioned about details of the case, Tunney said "he was unfamiliar with the allegations in the underlying criminal matter," the report said.

The alderman denied to the inspector general that he called Thomas on behalf of Naughton, "even though he admitted that the defendant's attorney called him to tell him that he was representing the defendant in this case," the report said.

"The evidence adduced shows that this Alderman contacted a potential witness by voicemail in a battery case, one of which the Alderman himself admittedly had no knowledge and played no part or role," the report said.

The alderman has been referred to the Board of Ethics for further review and action.

Tunney said in a statement that because the case has been referred to the city's Board of Ethics, he does not want to specifically comment except to note that he said in the voicemail to "let the court do what the court's supposed to do, and please, we don't need to have theatrics around the issue." 

"I will continue to be completely cooperative and I'm fully confident that my conduct will be found to be entirely appropriate," he said in the statement.

Thomas said he feels "vindicated" by the findings.

"This only goes to show Tunney's character — just like the sell out of the neighbors in the Wrigley Field deal," Thomas said, referring to the alderman's support of the project at Plan Commission.

Thomas owns several businesses near Clark and Belmont, including Taboo Tabou, The Alley and Architectural Revolution. He's previously been a vocal critic of Tunney, particularly about sewer main construction. He's planning a run for political office, though it's still unclear for which ward.

He also filed a complaint last Thursday against Judge Anthony Calabrese, who ruled over the Naughton case, for judicial misbehavior.

Also Monday, the inspector general said Ald. Joe Moore (49th) violated state ethics laws by paying more than $22,000 in severance to fired employees.