Burke hires ex-top cop of Cicero as chief investigator
BY STEVE WARMBIR AND FRAN SPIELMAN Staff Reporters March 7, 2012 7:02PM
Cicero Police Chief Thomas Rowan conducts a press conf to discuss the stopping of Cicero Police officer Lorne Stenson (white shirt) by two alledged Cook County Police officers who told Stenson they stopped him for arresting Cook County Commissioner Joseph Moreno for DUI. ( Bob Black-Suntimes)
Updated: April 10, 2012 10:49AM
Former Cicero Police Supt. Thomas Rowan took the Fifth 29 times when questioned under oath about whether he took part in setting up a Cook County commissioner for a bogus arrest — once the focus of an FBI investigation.
Rowan has been accused of threatening an officer with the loss of his job for cooperating with that FBI investigation.
In another matter, Rowan allegedly retaliated against a different cop by pulling back-up officers from her after she was sent out on a potentially violent call.
For another Cicero cop, though, Rowan was quite helpful.
Rowan wrote a letter to a federal judge on behalf of a violent Cicero officer, allegedly on the mob’s payroll, who is now in federal prison.
None of that stopped Rowan, 68, from getting a new job in recent months — with the Chicago City Council, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
Rowan was hired as chief investigator with the Council’s Finance Committee, whose chairman is Ald. Edward Burke (14th). Rowan has donated more than $10,000 to Burke’s campaign fund, records show.
In his new city job, Rowan, who began his career as a Chicago cop, is making nearly $70,000 a year.
That’s on top of the nearly $60,000 a year he gets from his government pensions.
Rowan’s work centers on workers’ compensation claims.
Five months ago, Burke and Mayor Rahm Emanuel agreed to work together to wring $15 million in savings out of the city’s tab of $100 million a year for workers’ compensation. A 2006 Sun-Times investigation found the city’s workers’ compensation system rife with abuse.
Emanuel also launched a safety program to reduce on-the-job injuries and ordered an analysis of working conditions in every city department to produce safety protocols.
As Finance Committee chairman, Burke has sole authority to process and settle workers compensation claims and handpick attorneys when claims are challenged. He agreed to investigate and manage individual cases more aggressively.
That’s Rowan’s job as chief investigator.
Burke’s spokesman declined to answer a list of questions regarding Rowan’s employment with Burke’s committee, other than to say that Rowan does live in Chicago, as required by the city.
Indeed, Rowan’s Illinois driver’s license does list a Chicago address.
But where Rowan actually lives is unclear. Just last year, Rowan wrote a letter to the Chicago police pension board, saying: “Please accept this letter as official notification that I have run away from home, and have a new address.”
Rowan lists the address for a home in Elgin, which he owns with another individual, property records show.
Rowan did not return a phone message for comment.
Rowan was born in Chicago in 1943 and joined the Chicago Police Department in 1965. He comes from a family with deep Chicago roots and has taken part in the annual tradition of dying the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day.
During his career with the Chicago Police Department, Rowan repeatedly took leave to work as a police chief in the suburbs. He’s worked as the top cop in Indian Head Park, Glenwood and most recently Cicero.
He’s been a supervisor with the Chicago Housing Authority police and over the last several years worked at the Israeli consulate in Chicago, where he was director of homeland security affairs.
It was Rowan’s time in Cicero though, as police chief from 1998 to 2003, that generated the most controversy.
Rowan was hired in 1998 by then Town President Betty Loren-Maltese, who later was sent to prison for corruption.
Rowan was named in lawsuits after one of his officers pulled over then Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno for a DUI in 2000, when Moreno was running against Loren-Maltese for town president. Prosecutors later dropped the DUI charge.
Rowan was accused of taking part in a conspiracy to gin up a case against Moreno — the focus of an FBI investigation, which never resulted in charges.
Rowan was accused in one lawsuit of threatening a Cicero police officer with his job for cooperating with the FBI. Rowan has denied this.
Rowan invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 29 times when asked about taking part in any conspiracy to set up Moreno, according to a 55-page deposition in the lawsuit brought by the Loevy & Loevy law firm.
In another lawsuit, a female Cicero officer alleged Rowan retaliated against her after she filed an EEOC complaint against the department. Rowan allegedly pulled back officers who had been sent to back her up in a potentially violent call, according to the female officer’s lawsuit. Rowan has denied this.
Both lawsuits were settled. Their terms were not disclosed.
Rowan also submitted a letter in 2007 on behalf of James DiSantis, who was found guilty of violating the rights of a man he pulled over by grabbing the man by the genitals and beating him up. DiSantis was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors noted that Rowan submitted a letter on DiSantis behalf even though Rowan had written DiSantis up on a discipline matter.
DiSantis would later be named in a confidential 2010 federal document obtained by the Sun-Times as being on the payroll of Cicero mob boss Michael “The Big Guy” Sarno and advising the mob boss of law enforcement activity.