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Takes Two to Tango: A Look at Gov's Chief of Staff

By Hunter Clauss in News on Dec 9, 2008 6:45PM

2008_6_5.blago.jpgSure, everyone knows who Gov. Rod Blagojevich is, but who’s this John Harris guy? Well, Harris was apart of Mayor Daley’s administration from 1996 to 2005.

“It’s a sad day,” Daley told reporters this morning, adding that he had not read the criminal complaint against Harris and Blagojevich.

In 2005, Harris resigned as budget director when City Hall was ensnared in Hired Trucks, political hiring and minority contracts scandals that were quickly circling around the Daley administration. Harris, who oversaw the Hired Trucks Program, made headlines during the scandal when it was revealed that he had ties to Victor Reyes, a former high-ranking Daley aide who ran the now infamous Hispanic Democratic Organization. Harris and Reyes were acquaintances and went on a fishing trip together in 2003. Harris also sat on a city panel that recommended a $1 billion construction contract to a company that employed Reyes as a lobbyist. Harris wasn’t charged with any wrongdoing but the damage was already done. In 2005, 13 top Daley aides either left or were shown the door in what was seen as a major housecleaning move by then chief of staff Ron Huberman. Harris was one of the 13 and left to join Gov. Blagojevich’s administration. Some City Hall watchers saw the move as a snub to Daley because Harris resigned only 4 days before the announcement of the city’s 2006 preliminary budget, which included an estimated $94 million shortfall.

During his time in City Hall, Harris oversaw the administrative side of the Chicago Police Department and would later help usher in the O’Hare runway expansion project. At that time, Harris served as a deputy to Aviation Commissioner Thomas Walker, who was largely a figurehead. Behind the scenes, Harris and then CTA President Frank Kruesi (grandfather of the CTA doomsday and mastermind behind Meigs Field) were considered to be the brains behind the department. Daley, however, bypassed Harris when he appointed someone else to oversee the all-important construction phase of the runway expansion plan, a sign that seemed to indicate that Harris was on the outs with Daley. But the two seemed to pact things together when Daley appointed Harris as budget director.

AP Photo/Paul Beaty