Tony Peraica has a letter from former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., adorning a shelf behind the desk of his Westchester district office. It expresses Fitzgerald’s congratulations and support for Peraica’s efforts the past five years to delve into the political corruption in Cook County.

Fitzgerald, you may recall, was the maverick Republican who bucked the powers that be–and basically flushed his political career down the toilet in the process-to bring Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation) here to Chicago as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in the fall of 2001. The result was a sea change in how political corruption was dealt with in the city and county. Vigorous prosecutions became the rule rather than the exception. For the first time in years, people who long believed they were untouchable were getting slapped hard.

Fitzgerald brought a change of philosophy as well as a change of tactics. Do your job honestly and in the best interests of the public, he said, or pay the price. As Fitzgerald’s top assistant, Patrick Collins said after the George Ryan corruption prosecution, “This wasn’t politics, and it wasn’t business-it was crimes.”

Yet when it comes to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, prosecution of political corruption remains the exception rather than the rule. Peraica is looking to change that. Yesterday he announced he’s pursuing the Republican nomination for Cook County State’s Attorney. He wants to bring the federal investigative and prosecutory model to Cook County, to delve deeply into illegal practices in government at all levels, including Proviso Township and District 209. Peraica criticized County State’s Attorney Dick Devine last week for ignoring clear evidence of criminal behavior by politically connected types the past 12 years.

Federal investigators recently served a subpoena at District 209. But Devine has never rocked the boat of anyone who’s anyone in Cook County, such as looking into the $216,000 in brokerage fees Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore has collected annually from District 209. Devine could have ask the two Moore employees who sit on the school board to explain, if he was so inclined.

Coincidentally, Devine’s former chief of staff, David A. Bonoma, was recently hired by District 209 as a lobbyist for $8,000 a month. He’s expected to work to get increased services and funding from the state. Apparently the folks we elected as our state representatives and senators aren’t up to that task.

Turns out Bonoma is an associate of Victor “Whispering Vic” Reyes, a close confidant of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. The same Daley who used to be Devine’s boss in the mid ’80s when he was state’s attorney.

Devine announced Friday he will not stand for re-election.

“There’s been so much fraud and theft going on at District 209 by Gene Moore and his underlings, like Chris Welch, who have stacked the payroll with their political cronies,” Peraica said.

Why, Peraica asks, did Welch spend a national high $200,000 to retain control of a school board in the last election? It’s a question he clearly would like to pose to him under oath. The sad fact is that the deeply seated corruption throughout Proviso Township isn’t going to be cleaned up through the political process. Political vermin like Eugene Moore and Chris Welch and Ron Serpico, who value only money and power, will only be stopped by the opposing power held in criminal indictments, in prosecution, imprisonment and asset forfeiture.

Patrick Collins said it best in a recent Chicago Magazine interview. “Any advice for potentially corrupt government officials?” he was asked. “Fast forward to your sentencing day,” Collins replied. That’s a sentiment Peraica would echo.

But there is no one person who can appoint Peraica to the task of cleaning up the corruption in Proviso Township. That decision is in our collective hands. It is perhaps the most crucial choice to be made in November 2008.