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Cicero leader’s rival calls for fed probe of spending at hardware store

Juan Ocho(left) who's running against Cicero Town President Larry Dominick Chicago Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) after new conference where Ochodemanded

Juan Ochoa (left), who's running against Cicero Town President Larry Dominick, and Chicago Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) after a new conference where Ochoa demanded a federal proble into the town's spending at a Berwyn hardware store. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 8, 2013 7:43AM

A rival of Cicero Town President Larry Dominick on Wednesday called for a federal investigation into town spending at a Berwyn hardware store.

Juan Ochoa’s call came a day after the Sun-Times reported that the Town of Cicero has spent more than $3 million at Lembke & Sons True Value, a store that has contributed more than $50,000 to Dominick’s campaign fund since he took office in 2005.

“We are here to demand a federal investigation for procurement irregularities,” Ochoa, who is running against Dominick for the post of town president, said at a news conference in front of the hardware store. He said he wants the U.S. attorney to begin an investigation.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago declined to comment.

Ochoa, flanked by Chicago Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, demanded Dominick return the thousands of dollars in contributions from the store.

“To me that’s nothing short of a kickback,” Ochoa said.

Dominick spokesman, Ray Hanania, said federal authorities are welcome to investigate, but they should expand their probe to include Ochoa. Ochoa used to run the McCormick Place Exposition Authority (McPier), appointed by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is serving a prison sentence for corruption.

Hanania said Dominick isn’t returning the money.

“Everything was done above board. It was money that was donated over the course of eight years, and it was all done legally,” Hanania said.

The owners of the store could not be reached.

The newspaper also reported that the town’s inspector general was looking into purchases made by the town’s rodent department. Questionable items bought by that department led Cicero’s clerk to alert the inspector, who began his probe last year.

Hanania pointed to that investigation and said the town was proactive in rooting out questionable behavior.

“We’re the ones that pointed a finger at this problem,” Hanania said.

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