St. Clair County is where political pedigrees, felony records meet


Harry Hollingsworth is a 70-year-old cancer patient.

He has spent a lifetime in public service: Democratic precinct committeeman, East St. Louis Park Board, East St. Louis Liquor Control Commission and now East St. Louis Township clerk.

He also has spent a lifetime getting into trouble: theft conviction, 1966; unlawful use of a weapon conviction, 1974; assault charge dismissed, 1986; battery charge dismissed, 1991; assault and aggravated assault charges dismissed, 1993; battery conviction, 2001; and a pending felony charge of perjury related to an election proceeding in 2015.

Hollingsworth’s no saint. He’s also not the worst sinner, at least in local politics.

But you’ve got to ask yourself, why are public service resumes in our area so often littered with criminal complaints? Why are the thieves drawn to township government? Why aren’t the people with clean records who care about their communities filling these many positions in these many layers of local government?

East St. Louis Township’s former supervisor Oliver W. Hamilton just reported to federal prison for five years. He made $230,000 in questionable credit card purchases, and the feds proved $40,000 of it was outright theft from his impoverished taxpayers.

You would think with a federal judge lambasting the culture of corruption and with the need to clean up corruption that not long ago had the township in a $2.5 million deficit, that something should change. You would think a violent felon with a pending felony charge was not the person to put in charge of that beleaguered township’s public records.

You’d think wrong.