Political patronage target feels vindicated by Blagojevich arrest

Ann Knef Dec. 9, 2008, 9:12am

A photo taken early in the primary season in Iowa. 'Illinoisans for Obama', with the exception of the senator from Iowa, include (bottom row from left) Hermon Betts, Mary DeAngelo, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Ray Coleman and Marge Francois. Top row: Barbara Henderson and Matt Hawkins.

Ray Coleman of Fairview Heights feels some vindication over the public corruption arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Coleman, an early Barack Obama volunteer writing a book about his experience with the president-elect, said the public finally gets to see what the FBI has been investigating, and what he says has not been "right" about the governor's administration.

"Three months into the Blagojevich administration I felt something was wrong," Coleman said.

Blagojevich was arrested on federal corruption charges, including trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Obama.

Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. The men face as much as 20 years in prison if convicted on the fraud charge and 10 years for the bribery charge.

Coleman had been a 20-year veteran of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), but lost his job in 2005 to what he calls political patronage.

He ran against St. Clair County Democratic powerbroker Sam Flood for 12th Congressional State Central Committeeman in 2004. Flood, a former Blagojevich aide, later dropped out of the race and was replaced by Congressman Jerry Costello, who easily won.

At the IDNR, Coleman was replaced by Sam Flood's son, Scott Flood.

He filed a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit against Flood and the IDNR, and won. In 2006, he settled out of court for $65,000.

"I did not hesitate to file suit," Coleman said. "I was not treated fairly."

At present, Coleman works for East St. Louis School District 189 within a federal program, "Safe Schools, Healthy Students."

He said the crimes Blagojevich is charged with represent the governor's "style of politics."

"He's in his comfort zone," Coleman said. "Maybe he felt he was above the law. Or maybe he's just doing what he thinks is the politically correct thing to do. Maybe he thinks it's politics and not criminal."

Coleman also thinks Blagojevich should do the right thing and resign.

Coleman and Obama

Coleman said he is three-fourths finished with a book that chronicles his association with Obama beginning in 2003 before he ran for the U.S. Senate. The book, which will be spiritual in theme, will conclude upon Obama's inauguration in January.

He doesn't believe the taint of Blagojevich's indictment will effect Obama.

"Just because there are corrupt politicians in the state of Illinois doesn't mean you're corrupt yourself," he said.

He also said more politicians should bring their moral convictions to the election process and in governance.

"If we have good values and morals then we should not leave them at our door when we participate in politics,"

Coleman said Obama is a spiritual person and a "phenomenal person."

He said his victory is in no way tainted by Blagojevich's problems.

Coleman has organized four buses traveling from East St. Louis to Washington, D.C., to be on hand for the inauguration of the first African American president.

More News