Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez, a staunch Daley political supporter, announced his retirement. Meanwhile, a top mayoral aide asked for and received the resignation of Inspector General Alexander Vroustouris because of "investigative problems" that included not acting quickly on cases referred to his office.
Some aldermen long have contended that Vroustouris concentrated his efforts on city employees guilty of relatively minor offenses while real corruption festered. Until Tuesday, Daley routinely defended him and appointed him to successive four-year terms.
Daley praised both Sanchez, 57, and Vroustouris, 51, for their years of service. But he said "I hope that it's very clear that these and other steps and changes we have taken in recent weeks are committed always to protect taxpayers."
The mayor told reporters that Sanchez was not forced out, but said he's always looking for change.
"You have to have change in government. ... You have to look at government completely differently than in the '90s," Daley said.
The departures were announced at a City Hall news conference by new Daley chief of staff Ron Huberman, who is leading a purge that earlier this month claimed the commissioners of two other departments--Water Management and Transportation--targeted in the Hired Truck investigation.
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-Ill.), a vocal critic of City Hall corruption who some view as a possible Daley challenger in 2007, was not impressed.
"It strikes me that these actions are too little and too late," Jackson said in a statement. Vroustouris "has been pressured to resign, but he has been AWOL for 18 years. The newspapers have been doing a better job from the outside of uncovering wrongdoing than the inspector general has been doing from within with full governmental investigative powers."
Huberman acknowledged "a lot of issues that occurred" on Sanchez's watch at the Streets and Sanitation Department.
"I certainly think Al was conscious of everything that was going on," he said. But Huberman also asserted that Sanchez was not pushed.
"The mayor did not request his resignation, but he has accepted it," Huberman said. "The mayor is generally appreciative of the job Al Sanchez has done during his six years as commissioner, but they both agree that this is a good time to move on, especially in the light of pending reorganization of our infrastructure departments."
The Hired Truck program used private firms to haul debris and material from city construction sites for the Streets and Sanitation, Water Management and Transportation Departments. The charges in Hired Truck haven't yet alleged wrongdoing in Streets and Sanitation, but federal agents seized records from the department last month.
Sanchez, who was paid $134,424 a year, is a longtime political operative with deep roots in the rough-and-tumble elections scene on his native Southeast Side and in Chicago's Latino political elite.
The son of a hot metal conductor at a steel plant, Sanchez was raised in the "Slag Valley" section of South Deering, near the Calumet River.
He began working for the city in 1974 and became an important member of the 10th Ward Democratic political organization of then-Ald. Edward Vrdolyak.
But Sanchez came to citywide prominence in the 1990s after playing a key role in the growth of the Hispanic Democratic Organization, which supports candidates backed by Daley.
Although handing out city jobs to political workers was made illegal by a federal court decree more than 20 years ago, hundreds of HDO members have found their way onto the city payroll in recent years. As head of Streets and Sanitation, Sanchez employed more than 200 HDO members, a 2002 Tribune investigation found.