East Chicago, Ind. library still bears name of corrupt ex-mayor - FOX 32 News Chicago

East Chicago, Ind. library still bears name of corrupt ex-mayor

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

If you have an overdue book at the library, you'll owe a fine. But in East Chicago, Indiana, a man that owes the city millions of dollars has a library named in his honor. Seem strange?

Library patrons can't understand why such a fine institution near the heart of downtown still bears the name of one of East Chicago's most corrupt politicians—former mayor Robert Pastrick.

"That's a bad role model for kids and this is a great library," one man says. "And I think it needs to be changed."

Pastrick was mayor for more than three decades, until sweeping federal indictments gutted his administration. While Pastrick was not charged criminally, he was later sued by the state of Indiana under the RICO act for running a corrupt enterprise. A judge agreed and ordered Pastrick and his cronies to pay back $24 million in city funds they used to buy votes, plus another $84 million in penalties.

So far, only a fraction has been recovered.

Ron Blake is a former East Chicago employee now living in Phoenix who helped blow the whistle on Pastrick. He says for the past year he's been calling and writing East Chicago officials asking them to change the library's name.

"When I found out his name is still attached to a public building, a library, it's hard to believe," Blake says. "It's just frustrating. A year later I follow up on this and there's still been no success. I've always said if this was Bernie Madoff in New York and he had a building named after him, I think there'd be a huge uproar."

Or there's the case of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Within hours after being impeached from office, the state un-Blagojeviched all the toll plazas and signs in Illinois.

East Chicago's library director says if there's an outcry, he hasn't heard it.

"What's important is not the name, in any public library," Charles Moore says. "It's providing quality service to our patrons."

There used to be a Robert A. Pastrick marina in East Chicago, Indiana, but in the midst of the scandal a few years ago, they dropped the name. At least, that's what city officials tell us. Though, it's still on all the road signs leading to the marina.

So if Pastrick's name comes off the library's wall, whose name goes on?

"Somebody who's been a social worker. Maybe a teacher," Blake says. "There's a lot of good that can come from this. There's so many good people in East Chicago."

Pastrick's name was put on the library in 1986. He left office in 2003 when he lost a court-ordered rerun of the previous election, which had been rigged.

So far, Pastrick has paid back East Chicago about $145,000 of the millions he still owes.

We tried to talk to Pastrick about all this, but he hasn't returned our messages.

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