Cook County Commissioner John Daley, left, hugs Patrick Daley Thompson after he is sworn in as  a new commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board.

Cook County Commissioner John Daley, left, hugs Patrick Daley Thompson after he is sworn in as a new commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board.

Brown: One day later, Daleys put on a brave face

Published Dec. 5, 2012



The Daleys, Chicago’s royal family of politics, gathered Tuesday to celebrate the first political ascension of their next generation.

If they were made uncomfortable by the front page headlines proclaiming that another member of that generation had just been indicted for involuntary manslaughter, they weren’t letting on.

It was stiff upper lips and relaxed smiles all around for the benefit of Patrick Daley Thompson, 43, who was being sworn in to his newly elected post as a commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

The indictment of Thompson’s cousin, Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko, had been announced the previous day for his alleged involvement in the 2004 killing of DavidKoschman.

The starkly contrasting events were a measure of the complicated relationship between the Daleys and the people of Chicago and Cook County.

Even as “attaboys” were still pouring in for Chicago Sun-Times investigative reporters from all those who believe it was favored treatment for the long-entrenched Daleys that prevented Vanecko from being charged sooner, Thompson was being officially installed because voters elected to give the family a new lease on political life.

Both Thompson and Vanecko are nephews of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and grandsons of the family’s political patriarch, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, who had been sworn in as Cook County clerk 62 years ago to the day.

“Uncle Rich” was said to be out of the country on business Tuesday, but their other powerful uncles – former Commerce Secretary and White House Chief of Staff Bill, Cook County Commissioner John and lawyer Michael – were all present.

Even Robert Vanecko, brother of the indicted Richard, was in attendance. Robert has made his own headlines for a troubled real estate venture backed by city pension funds and a secret investment with cousin Patrick Daley in a sewer company that got city contracts. Robert Vanecko arrived late, sat in the back and refused to speak with reporters afterward – but then posed for a family photo.

The only hint that R.J. Vanecko was on their minds came when Cook County Commissioner John Daley got tongue-tied while introducing Thompson.

John said Thompson “was raised to believe that no matter what, whose life you take, where life takes you, you always find time to serve your neighborhood, your community and your church.”

I can promise you that “whose life you take” was not in his prepared remarks, but John, who most of us regard as the nicest of the Daley brothers, is also the most prone to misspeak.

It was left to Bill, the brother least prone to misspeak and long the family spokesman, to deal with the matter of the indictment.

“The death of the young man was a terrible tragedy eight years ago. The pain which his family has felt over those years, anyone who has lost a child knows that. It’s an irreplaceable pain,” Bill told Sun-Times reporter Dan Mihalopoulos and me after the ceremony.

Now that the matter is in court, Bill said, “we’ll just have to let the system run its course and move forward on it. But it’s a tragedy all the way around.”

I asked Bill if he thought the Daley name brings favoritism, or extra scrutiny, thinking to myself that it does both. As many have observed, if David Koschman had been accused of killing Vanecko, he would have been charged long ago. On the flip side, though, if Vanecko wasn’t a Daley, none of us in the media would have given this incident any attention.

You can see Bill’s thoughtful answers in the accompanying story.

Vanecko, 38, isn’t really a kid any more, of course, nor was he in 2004.

Bill Daley said he’s still giving “serious thought” to running for governor in 2014, and if he does, he’ll be considered a leading contender.

But there’s no doubt his nephew’s problems have further complicated his decision.