State Rep. Elaine Nakritz // Jerry Daliege for Pioneer Press
SPRINGFIELD - A key House Democrat involved in the expulsion of former state Rep. Derrick Smith said Friday she sees differences with Smith and the case of newly indicted state Rep. LaShawn Ford and would not spearhead an effort to drive Ford from his seat.
Ford, 40, was named Thursday in a 17-count federal indictment for allegedly fraudulently obtaining a $500,000 increase and a two-year extension on a line of credit from Chicago-based ShoreBank, which failed in 2010 and was taken over by federal banking regulators.
"I'm not saying we'd never take action if there are ethical lapses and it didn't involve someone's state office. But the fact this one [Ford's case] doesn't involve that and it's outside his official scope makes me think this would not be a place where I'd want to take the lead on any action," Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Nekritz chaired a House investigative panel charged last spring with determining if enough evidence existed to warrant sanctions against Smith.
In announcing bank-fraud charges against Ford, the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago made special mention that the allegations against him didn't pertain to his official duties as a House member representing part of the West Side and near west suburbs.
In the case of former Rep. Smith, federal authorities charged him with bribery last spring after he allegedly accepted a $7,000 cash bribe from an FBI undercover informant purportedly acting on behalf of a fictitious daycare operator seeking Smith's help in obtaining a $50,000 state grant.
Still awaiting trial, Smith was expelled from the House in August but won election in November so he'll be re-seated when the new General Assembly takes over in January.
A key Republican involved in Smith's expulsion, state Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst), said he needs to do more review of the government's case against Ford before saying conclusively disciplinary action should or should not be taken against him by the House.
But Reboletti, a former prosecutor and the ranking Republican on the House Special Investigating Committee Nekritz chaired, said he too believes Smith's case is different than Ford's.
"I would say this situation probably is not as clear-cut as Rep. Smith's issue," Reboletti told the Sun-Times. "Rep. Smith used his office for personal gain. Right now, I'm trying to read through the charging instrument to see if there was anything else in there that Rep. Ford may have used his office in that manner. But at first blush, that doesn't appear to be the case."