A now-retired city official who was previously responsible for managing Chicago's red-light camera program was arrested Wednesday on a federal bribery charge.
Federal prosecutors say John Bills allegedly steered $124 million in city contracts to Phoenix-based Redflex Traffic Systems, the company that once installed and ran the city's red-light cameras, in exchange for cash and other personal benefits, including a $177,000 Arizona condominium.
The federal complaint, which was unsealed Wednesday, alleges that Bills received the bribes from a one-time friend, a person referred to as "Individual A." The unnamed individual received $2 million to serve as a consultant to Redflex, which the city fired as its vendor last year. Redflex has previously stated that the firm's Chicago consultant was an individual named Martin O’Malley, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The city was awarded its initial contract to Redflex in 2003.
Between 2003 and 2011, Bills allegedly accepted "cash and checks directly and indirectly for his benefit to repay loans, for his retirement party, and catering for another party" from the unnamed Redflex consultant, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois.
Bills has been charged with one count of federal program bribery. In remarks after his court hearing Wednesday, Bills' lawyer Nishay Sanan said, "John denies ever taking a bribe from anybody."
"He's a hard-working individual and the one thing that everybody should realize is he didn't have the power in the city of Chicago to direct any contract to anybody," Sanan said.
After working a total of 32 years for the city, Bills retired in 2011 when he was the managing deputy commissioner of Chicago's transportation department. He is a former member of the city of Chicago's contract evaluation committee. Bills was also a precinct captain for House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Under its initial contract with the city, Redflex received $25 million between 2004 to 2008. During this time period, Redflex installed and maintained 136 Chicago red-light cameras and also assisted in reviewing and processing violations.