The Chicagoist Flashback: The Demise Of Orville Hodge
By Samantha Abernethy in News on Jul 16, 2012 9:00PM
Paul Terrill, chief investigator for the Sangamon County sheriff’s department, fingerprints Orville E. Hodge at the county jail. Photo Credit: The State Journal-Register
Let's take a look at one of our state's lesser-known corrupt politicians. Orville Enoch Hodge served as the Auditor of Public Accounts for the state of Illinois from 1953 to 1956 when he resigned and turned himself into the police. Hodge so disgraced the office of Auditor that it was dismantled and replaced with the position of Comptroller. The state Comptroller's office details Hodge's term in office on its history page:
Orville Hodge used his legislative knowledge and skill to obtain a budget for his office $2.5 million higher than was needed in the previous biennium. Despite this increase, he spent money so freely he ran dry before the end of his term and had to be bailed out by the legislature with a $525,000.00 emergency appropriation. He had embezzled more than $1 million from phony state warrants; misappropriated another half million of liquidating funds of closed banks and robbed the taxpayers of another million by padding illegal expense accounts, illicit expenditures, fraudulent contracts and waste.
It was a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by the Chicago Daily News that brought Hodge down in 1956. Thiem had previously won a Pulitzer for uncovering another government scandal, when he found 51 newspaper employees were secretly on the payroll of Gov. Dwight Green. We weren't able to track down Thiem's first article—which Thiem later turned into a book—but this Saturday Evening Post article from 1957 details how Thiem unraveled Hodge's tangled web.
A state capital is a great spot for gossip. Thiem had no trouble learning that Hodge had indeed been living graciously. He kept suites in both the leading hotels, for instance, though one, the St. Nicholas, was regarded as a Democratic hangout. They were specially decorated and furnished, too, and for this and expensive entertaining, Hodge had paid with state checks—technically, "warrants."
Hodge had paid a bill for $5200 at the St. Nick with a state warrant. He was letting the state pay for maintenance on his two planes, Thiem learned at the airport. He had paid for $5000 worth of entertainment at the Mill Tavern, a night spot popular with politicians, again with a state check. Some of this may have been official entertaining. Still, the use of state checks for personal expenses looked like a habit, and his kind of chiseling wasn't becoming.
Read the full article (this is the second part of a 4-part piece) in the Saturday Evening Post available via EBSCO. See more photos from Hodge's arrest on the State Journal-Register's photography blog.