By Jo Napolitano
CHICAGO – A life-size statue of Elvis Presley is among a trove of Rod Blagojevich’s belongings in an Illinois storage facility that the warehouse owner says he will sell at auction if the former governor doesn’t settle his debt.
Paul Lombardo, owner of Boyer-Rosene Moving & Storage in Arlington Heights, said Blagojevich is more than a year past due and is accruing penalty charges on seven wooden storage units he has rented since 2002.
The public will be invited to buy the ex-governor’s belongings Aug. 14, according to a certified letter sent to Blagojevich, his attorney and the Friends for Rod Blagojevich on Thursday.
Proceeds from the auction will go to an institution that has played prominently in Blagojevich’s and Lombardo’s lives: Children’s Memorial Hospital.
Lombardo lost two children in their infancy; both suffered from a congenital diaphragmatic hernia. He has been raising money for children’s hospitals and aid groups since, saying that in times of crisis health care workers are a family’s salvation. Three of his four surviving children – all healthy now – have been treated at Children’s in utero or after they were born.
“I’m extremely sensitive to children who are sick,” he said. “And Children’s Memorial is just incredible. They really helped coach us through the dark tunnel we were looking at. The staff goes above and beyond the scope of their work.”
Prosecutors say the same about Blagojevich, at least about going beyond the scope of his work. The former governor, the subject of closing arguments Monday in his public corruption trial, is alleged to have demanded a $50,000 campaign contribution from the head of the Lincoln Park hospital in return for backing $8 million in funding for a statewide pediatric-care initiative.
Some say it’s among the most lurid of accusations against him.
His debt to the storage company is a small burden in comparison. Lombardo, of Plainfield, won’t disclose exactly how much the ex-governor owes. But he said the figure is “in the thousands,” with several hundred dollars accruing every month.
The business owner said he doesn’t really need the money.
“I just thought that maybe something good could come out of this very bad situation,” Lombardo said. “I don’t think I’m ever going to get what I’m owed. I’m not trying to make money off of this for myself, which is why the proceeds will go to the hospital.”
A spokeswoman for Children’s Memorial said she could not comment on anything related to the former governor because of the ongoing trial.
Lombardo said he’s been in contact with Blagojevich’s attorney – they’ve spoken several times in the last few weeks – but hasn’t seen a dime.
“He’s been dragging his feet and trying to buy time,” Lombardo said of the attorney. “He’s giving me the runaround. I said, ‘If I don’t hear from anyone, I’ll assume that you have no interest in working this out.’ ”
Calls from the Chicago Tribune to the attorney were not returned.
Aside from the colorful Elvis statue – it captures The King in full hip-swaying mode – most of the rest of Blagojevich’s items are files. Lombardo said the 5-foot-by-7-foot storage units are nearly all filled.
So what’s in there? Lombardo wouldn’t say except that they contain professional and personal effects and that Blagojevich would probably want them back.
“There’s just a lot of stuff,” he said, “largely boxes and records.”