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Spotlight on Robert Rieser


Photo of Robert Rieser recieving public service awardImagine that you are the public works director in your city and have dedicated your long career to the betterment of the community. A prime 7-acre property in town is under discussion for commercial development...but it has flooding problems. You're invited to a high-level meeting to discuss how much of the land can be developed. Then, just before the meeting is to start, you look up and see a long-time friend at your door—a former city at-large alderman. All alone in your office, he offers you, on behalf of a powerful local developer, a $10,000 bribe to "resolve" the engineering issues on that property.

What do you do?

If you are Robert Rieser of Aurora, Illinois, you put your hurt and your disappointment in your friend in your back pocket and immediately report the bribery attempt to the Mayor, who in turn notifies the FBI.

And that's not all.

Once the FBI opened an investigation, Mr. Rieser, distressed, agreed to assist with it. He knew he would certainly pay a heavy personal price for getting involved, but he told FBI investigators that he needed "to do the right thing, no matter what the cost may be." And the "right thing" turned out to be collecting hard evidence of public corruption since the original bribe, without witnesses, was only hearsay.

It was grueling and unpleasant work. On top of his regular duties as director of public works and manager of the municipal airport, Mr. Rieser arranged meetings with his "friend" and the land developer over a six-month period to obtain evidence of both the bribery attempt and the proposed fraud. His efforts were completely successful. The two men were indicted on November 2. Then a superseding indictment was brought when Mr. Rieser's former friend admitted to earlier crimes on behalf of the developer—when he was actually serving as at-large alderman, as chairman of the city's planning and development committee, and even, for a time, as acting mayor—and he pled guilty. The developer went to court and, thanks to Mr. Rieser's testimony and evidence, was found guilty and convicted. It was a happy story for the city of Aurora, which was freed from longstanding corrupt practices and was incidentally spared the consequences of the fraud.

Mr. Rieser, to our minds, is a hero. And the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI , which presents an annual award to heroes, agreed. They honored him last week for giving unselfishly of himself to both his community and the nation. Director Robert Mueller had the pleasure of making the presentation, with former FBI Director William Webster and current FBI Deputy Director John Pistole, noting his deep appreciation of the Society and its leadership role in recognizing citizens who sacrifice themselves for the public good.

We'd like to close with the personal words of the FBI agent who worked on the case with Mr. Rieser: "There are few men who will stand up for what is right, and even fewer when it comes at the cost of their personal safety or relationships. Your courage and example serve as a testament to all that is good about public service." Thank you, Mr. Rieser, on behalf of all the men and women of the FBI.

Pictured, from left to right: Former FBI Director William Webster; FBI Deputy Director John Pistole; Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI President Jerry Emmons; Robert Rieser ; Director Mueller; Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI Foundation Chairman Robert Gast; Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI President-Elect Andrew Palumbo.