Controversial company tied to UNO slated to get CPS deal
BY LAUREN FITZPATRICK Education Reporter October 22, 2013 7:12PM
Updated: November 24, 2013 6:27AM
One of the construction companies at the center of the controversy surrounding the United Neighborhood Organization’s state school construction grant is in line to get part of a Chicago Public Schools deal that the Board of Education is expected to approve on Wednesday.
D’Escoto Inc., is listed on the board’s agenda as a minority-owned business subcontractor for construction projects under CPS’ capital improvement plan. The $4.3 million project director services contract is slated to be awarded to the Jacobs Project Management Company, according to the agenda. If approved, D’Escoto stands to earn about 17.5 percent, or about $731,000, according to CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. Jacobs and its subcontractors will oversee things like permitting and making sure projects are completed on time for all CPS’ capital projects this year. D’Escoto has a long history of public works contracts, including extensive work on the O’Hare Airport Modernization program and at CPS, and has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
UNO, the politically connected Hispanic community group that operates a charter network, suspended d’Escoto Inc.’s work in February after the Sun-Times reported that it got business while D’Escoto’s brother, Miguel d’Escoto, was second-in command at UNO.
D’Escoto Inc., and Reflection Window Co. LLC, owned by another brother, Rodrigo d’Escoto, received $8.5 million in state-funded contracts on several UNO charter schools.
Miguel D’Escoto, who also was d’Escoto Inc.’s board treasurer, resigned his $200,000-a-year UNO position eight days after the Sun-Times report.
Fred d’Escoto also served on UNO’s board until 2010 when he quit, but his company had done other UNO work while he was still a board member since at least 2007. He did not return calls for comment Tuesday, but in June, he told the Sun-Times that he was “very proud” of his company’s work for UNO, adding: “None of the d’Escoto brothers took any part in UNO’s decision to hire d’Escoto Inc. for any projects relating to state grant money.”
Gov. Pat Quinn suspended the $98 million school construction grant in April citing a violation of the conflict-of-interest clause in the state deal; he restored the money in June after UNO made assurances that Miguel d’Escoto was gone and that his brothers’ companies had been terminated.
Last week, after UNO confirmed it was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Quinn aides disclosed that they had suspended the remaining $15 million in promised grant funding. SEC records obtained by the Sun-Times show investigators have asked UNO to turn over documents pertaining to d’Escoto Inc.’s contracts with the charter operator.
Contributing: Dan Mihalopoulos