By Jean Lotus
Newly sworn-in 7th District state representative Emanuel "Chris" Welch set up his local offices in Westchester last week at 10055 Roosevelt Road, and on the payroll as a part-time employee is a convicted felon. The 7th District covers Forest Park and River Forest as well as Maywood, Broadview, Westchester and Bellwood.
Guy "Ric" Cervone, 52, is a former Melrose Park police commander who pled guilty to federal charges of obstruction of justice. Prosecutors said he helped Melrose Park's ex-Police Chief Vito Scavo run a private security firm on public time and with public funds. Cervone is also a former school board member of District 89 in Melrose Park.
"I know that Ric has a controversial past," Welch said Thursday. "I have known Ric for 15 years. He's a heck of a guy. He works his butt off and he does a heck of a job."
Cervone was sentenced in 2010 to 60 days in jail and paid a $5,000 fine. His police pension was taken away. Prosecutors had requested 16 months in prison, but Cervone changed his plea to guilty the day before his February 2010 sentencing hearing.
Cervone was in charge of the police department's time records in the early 2000s. His boss, Scavo, was charged and convicted in a federal probe for running a private security firm using police manpower during work hours. Cervone pleaded guilty to changing, under orders of Scavo, officers' time due records to show extra time worked. This took place between 2003 and 2005.
About 100 letters of support were given to Judge Joan B. Gottschall at Cervone's sentencing hearing, one of them written by Welch. Welch said. "I'm one of the people who wrote letters to the judge. What he did was stupid and he is sorry for it and he learned from that."
Welch said Cervone works part time as an office manager in the new office, an administrative role he has performed for Welch over the past year as Welch campaigned for the state office. "Ric did the same thing for my campaign, kept the office running smoothly," Welch said. Cervone was paid $14,281.84 by the Welch campaign in 2012, according to D-2 campaign disclosure filings.
Because Cervone was just been added to the state's financial recordkeeping system last week, The Review was unable to confirm his income from the state. However, Welch said that Cervone will not receive benefits or be eligible for a state pension since he is working part-time.
Welch said he also is using the state's budget for office staffing to hire District 209 Proviso High School board member Francine Harrell as part-time constituent services coordinator. Welch is a long time District 209 board president. He stepped down from that post just this week.
"I will be hiring other people from time to time, college students who come home for the summer to serve as interns," Welch said.
This article has been updated to correct the charges to which Cervone pleaded guilty.