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Emanuel stops contributions to favored charity from firms getting city subsidies

Maggie Daley  |  Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Maggie Daley | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 28, 2012 6:19AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has ended a long-standing practice that allowed After School Matters, the charity founded by Chicago’s former first lady Maggie Daley, to receive more than $1 million over a 10-year period from companies that received tax-increment-financing subsidies from the city.

Inspector General Joe Ferguson disclosed the change in policy after issuing a follow-up to the politically explosive report he issued last year, less than two months before Mrs. Daley died of breast cancer at the age of 68.

In his first installment, Ferguson identified $915,000 in contributions to After School Matters from companies that received TIF subsidies, under terms of “public benefits clauses” tucked into their redevelopment agreements with the city.

The charity Mrs. Daley founded to occupy and educate teenagers was “unilaterally chosen” by the city as the recipient of charitable contributions more often than any other entity, Ferguson concluded.

On Monday, the inspector general issued a follow-up report that identified $110,000 in additional contributions to After School Matters.

That brings the revised 10-year total for After School Matters to just more than $1 million and the total for all 25 private non-profits that received charitable contributions in 31 TIF redevelopment agreements to $4.1 million.

Another $25,000 in previously undisclosed contributions went to the Lemuel Austin Youth Foundation, named after the late Ald. Lemuel Austin (34th), who died of a heart attack in 1994. Austin’s widow, Carrie Austin, succeeded her husband as alderman and Budget Committee chairman.

In March, the Emanuel administration declared its intention to restrict future cash donations to those private entities “integrally involved” in a TIF project.

When Ferguson complained that the restriction did not go far enough — and included no criteria for identifying those “integrally involved” in TIF projects — City Hall went further.

In an Oct. 24 letter to Ferguson, Housing and Economic Development Commissioner Andrew Mooney declared: “The city stopped the practice under question in 2009 and the current administration re-emphasizes that the practice is not permissible.”

Ferguson is now satisfied.

“With this further action, the city appears to have ended its prior practice of directing cash donations to private charities in TIF public benefits,” he wrote.

“The long-running practice — a non-transparent, no-accountability and zero-ownership routine that posed an appearance of preferential treatment — is no more.”

Last year, former Mayor Richard M. Daley denounced Ferguson’s report as “disgraceful” and a “personal insult to my wife.”

The former mayor insisted that no arms were ever twisted to produce donations to his wife’s charity.

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