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Ald. Carrie Austin gives son top ward job

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

If they ever make a sit-com about Chicago’s City Hall, it might be called, “All in the Family.”

Now, Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) has crafted a new episode — by installing her son as her ward superintendent.

Until recently, Lemuel Austin III was a $73,216-a year laborer for the Department of Water Management.

Now, he has his mother’s political fate in his hands. As ward superintendent, he will be paid $75,512 a year and be singularly responsible for housekeeping in the South Side ward — everything from snow removal, garbage collection and street sweeping to tree trimming, graffiti removal and rodent control.

Former alderman-turned-County Commissioner William Beavers (7th) once had his brother working as his ward superintendent. Before being convicted on federal corruption charges, former Ald. Arenda Troutman (20th) had her sister doing the same.

Austin is believed to be the first alderman to install a son or daughter in the all-important job. Neither the alderman nor her son could be reached for comment.

“She wants somebody she can trust who’ll take care of business. The kid will either do it or he won’t come to Sunday dinner,” said a City Hall source, who asked to remain anonymous.

Nepotism apparently comes naturally to the Austins.

For five years ending in 1993, Austin’s husband, the late Ald. Lemuel Austin (34th), and Anthony C. Laurino (39th) engaged in the art of political wife-swapping.

Laurino’s wife was placed on the payroll of the City Council’s Budget Committee, chaired by Lemuel Austin. Laurino, who chaired the Traffic Committee, returned the favor by giving Austin’s wife a committee job.

Despite a federal investigation into alleged ghost payrolling on the staffs of City Council committees, Carrie Austin has insisted that she earned her $37,560-a-year field investigator’s pay by driving around four South Side wards in search of broken street signs.

Lemuel Austin died of a heart attack in 1994 at the age of 48.

Two weeks later, Mayor Daley appointed Carrie Austin to succeed her late husband. Seven years later, Carrie Austin followed in her husband’s footsteps again — as chairman of the City Council’s second-most powerful committee.

Carrie Austin was re-elected Feb. 22 with 65 percent of the vote against four challengers. She waited until after the election to engineer the appointment of her son, who ran snow removal operations in the 34th Ward during the Ground Hog Day blizzard.

Lemuel III, whose late father once served as ward superintendent, could have his work cut out for him.

The 34th Ward was one of ten wards involved in a 10-week surveillance that prompted then-Inspector General David Hoffman to conclude in 2008 that Chicago was wasting $21 million-a-year on garbage collection crews “paid to do nothing for 25 percent of their time on the clock.

Laborers and truck drivers tracked by investigators were found to be in bars and restaurants, relaxing at home, sitting in their cars or standing around drinking and, in one case, urinating on the street when they were supposed to be hard at work.

Contributing: Frank Main

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