U.S. Rep. Danny Davis said he planned to call Ald. Isaac “Ike” Carothers in a day or so after the Austin alderman was indicted May 28 on federal corruption charges.
Davis admits that he and Carothers have not always seen eye-to-eye politically. But just hours after federal authorities dropped the bomb on Carothers, who was elected 29th Ward alderman in 1999, Davis offered empathy to his sometime rival.
“The most I would say is I hope that Alderman Carothers will be proven innocent when they go to trial,” he said.
Carothers, 54, was indicted by federal authorities last Thursday, charged with four counts of wire and mail fraud and one count each of accepting a bribe and filing a false deferral on an income tax return.
He was under investigation for corruption for more than three years. It was also revealed in court records that he was wearing a wire and secretly recording conversations for federal investigators for a year.
Davis and Carothers have been political rivals for some time. In 2003, Davis quietly backed West Side pastor Marshall Hatch, who challenged Carothers in his reelection. Hatch was unsuccessful in the occasionally testy campaign. A year later, Carothers backed his aunt, Anita Rivkin-Carothers, a Cook County judge, in her failed bid to unseat Davis for Congress.
Davis maintained that any rift he and Carothers had was never personal.
“We’ve actually had a wonderful working relationship, but we have not always agreed on political decisions. There’s no personal relationship problems,” Davis said. “It was just a case where on some issues, he was on one side of the issue and I was on the other.
“I don’t want to see anything bad happen to Alderman Carothers and his family,” added Davis, who was 29th Ward alderman from 1979-90.
Austin pastor cautions against ‘rush to judgment’
Carothers was charged with accepting about $40,000 in repairs to his Austin residence on Race Avenue, along with meals and tickets to sporting events in exchange for supporting a project by developer Calvin Boender, who also indicted May 28.
The 11-count indictment alleges that Carothers supported rezoning of a 50-acre former rail yard and industrial site in Galewood, the largest undeveloped tract of land in the city.
Carothers’ father, William Carothers, former alderman of the West Side’s 28th Ward, himself was convicted on federal charges of attempting to extort a hospital contractor for remodeling work in his offices for free. Isaac Carothers’ grandfather, Ike Sims, was a state representative and 28th Ward committee.
Investigators said Isaac Carothers’ arraignment will take place at a later date. Federal authorities hosted a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago to announce the indictment.
Austin pastor, Rev. Ira Acree said he learned of the indictment earlier that morning. Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Church, 1256 N. Waller, was out of town when the news broke, but spoke to the Austin Weekly News by phone.
He said Carothers has done good work for the community and cautions against a rush to judgment.
“I’m saddened by the news and my prayers are with his family,” Acree said. “We certainly wish the best for him, and we don’t want there to be a rush to judgment.”
A member of the LEADER’s Network of West Side clergy, Acree added that would contact Carothers to offer support.
“I’ve not talked with him recently, but he’s always accessible,” Acree said.
The Austin pastor maintained that Carothers has worked hard for the community insisting, “that should stand for something.” Acree also credited Carothers for listening to his and other community leaders’ complaints about police misconduct.
“Instead of being totally dismissive of us, he held Jody Weis’ feet to the fire, and I appreciate that,” he said, referring to the police superintendent.
Rev. Marshall Hatch, a member of the LEADER’s Network and pastor of New Mt. Pilgrim Church in West Garfield, was unavailable for comment.
Carothers’ career in public service began in the Cook County Public Defender’s Office as supervisor of investigations. In 2000, Carothers was voted chairman of the police and fire committee, the third most powerful position in the city council.
He has been one of Mayor Daley’s staunchest allies in city government. A graduate of DePaul University, Carothers earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science in 1977, and a master’s in criminal Justice from Chicago State University in 1987.
Carothers ran in a crowded field in the 1999 campaign for 29th Ward alderman, besting his four appointments with 41 percent of the vote, but faced a run-off election that April against Austin activist Floyd Thomas after failing to get above 50 percent.
Carothers finally won the race with 58 percent of the vote. His campaign platform included economic development and fighting crime. But during the campaign and run-off, Carothers faced allegations of engaging in “dirty tactics,” including intimating and bullying members of Thomas’ camp, charges that he denied.
Carothers was also accused by members of the Austin Youth League during the campaign. They claimed that Carothers threatened to shut down the league if the parents and adult volunteers didn’t support his campaign.
The alderman denied those charges as well. Following his defeat, Thomas accused the Carothers campaign of requesting absentee ballots for decease Austin residents. The alderman denied any wrongdoing.
In one of his few extensive interviews with Austin Weekly News, during his reelection in 2003, Carothers addressed voters’ mistrust of politicians.
“Most people have a cynicism about elected officials. That’s just the nature of it. When one elected official gets in trouble and things go bad, then they use that broad brush.
“But I think we get by that when we produce and people see the results,” Carothers said of elected officials.