Blagojevich-Mell feud boils over again
The public family feud between Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his father-in-law, Chicago Alderman Richard Mell, reopened this week after Mell issued a terse statement in response to the governor's latest attempt to crackdown on the state's landfill industry.
Mell's response came after a Blagojevich-backed bill that includes a provision barring landfill ownership by relatives of top state officials, including the governor, was filed in the state Senate Monday.
"Once again, Gov. Rod Blagojevich is using the power of his office to have state legislators introduce a bill aimed at the mistaken notion that I have a financial interest in a business owned and operated by a relative of my wife, Margaret," Mell said in a written statement to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency chief Renee Cipriano said the bill seeks to increase regulatory oversight and enforcement of landfills and is not aimed at Mell.
"To say this is focused on the alderman is simply untrue," Cipriano said.
The feud between the governor and his father-in-law dates back to January when Blagojevich ordered the IEPA to shut down a Joliet landfill owned by Frank Schmidt -- a distant cousin to the governor's wife Patti Blagojevich -- after he allegedly told customers he could evade permit requirements because of his family ties.
State officials said the landfill failed to fully comply with environmental requirements, and it reopened less than two weeks after it was ordered closed.
Blagojevich's order drew a searing response from Mell, who said the move was an act of retribution against him. Mell was an adviser to Schmidt and has denied any having financial interests in the landfill.
Mell also alleged that Blagojevich's chief fund-raiser traded government appointments for campaign contributions. The alderman later recanted the allegations, but Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine opened an investigation into the matter.
On Monday, Mell said his son-in-law was choosing to target his family instead of focusing on issues such as education and public transportation.
"Somehow, the governor does not see the urgency in these matters, yet is so consumed with a single issue that he is laser-focused on our own family tragedy instead of serving the interests of the 12 million others he is supposed to represent," Mell said.
Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said the landfill bill "has nothing to do with the alderman.
"He's said that he has no involvement or no interest in any landfills, so he won't even be impacted," Ottenhoff said.