Who's sorry now?

Who's sorry now?

Here's an Illinois-style Christmas story that should warm the cockles of every taxpayer's heart.

They say crime doesn't pay; of course, it does.

Just don't get caught. That's another story altogether.

Former Madison County Treasurer Fred Bathon got caught. He was sentenced Dec. 6 to 30 months in federal prison. What's even worse, the 58-year-old Bathon must forfeit his $90,000 annual pension because of his conviction for misconduct as a public employee.

Located near St. Louis, Madison County has been one of the most notoriously corrupt of Illinois' 102 counties. Along with neighboring St. Clair County, it's sort of a downstate counterpart to Cook County in northern Illinois.

Bathon was a big player in Madison County, a political power-broker who enhanced his political status by making large campaign donations to fellow Democrats.

So how does a county treasurer turn himself into a political fundraising machine? He did it the old-fashioned way — by corrupting his office.

Bathon masterminded a multiyear (2005-2009) scheme overseeing the sale of tax liens at inflated interest rates to a handful of his special friends. The buyers paid off Bathon while the targets of the tax liens were required to pay inflated interest rates — usually 18 percent — to settle the lien.

Now that the tax liens are being handled in the proper manner, the liens that are sold have interest rates closer to 3 percent. Obviously, this scheme targeted those who could least afford to be victimized.

That's why it's wonderful to see Bathon go to prison. That's why people should celebrate the forfeiture of his outrageously generous pension. That's why it's important for the public and news media to keep a sharp eye on all elected officials, only some of whom have the public's best interests at heart.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion


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