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Chicago Library Board VP resigns amid questions on possible conflict

Cherryl Thomas |  Dan Rest Photo

Cherryl Thomas | Dan Rest Photo

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Updated: January 9, 2013 6:09AM

The longtime vice president of Chicago’s Public Library Board has resigned amid questions about the apparent conflict posed by her firm’s work as a subcontractor on library construction.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that Ardmore Associates LLC, the company Cherryl Thomas founded after serving as building commissioner under then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, was paid to help oversee construction of new libraries.

That posed a conflict, since the library board helps to decide when and where new libraries should be built.

On Thursday, Thomas ended the conflict by stepping down from the library board.

“I resigned from the Chicago Public Library Board and I resigned from the After School Matters board to avoid any appearance of a possible conflict of interest between my duties as a business person and my duties on either one of those boards,” Thomas said Friday.

Asked whether she believes her dual role posed an actual conflict, Thomas said, “No. I resigned to avoid any appearance” of a conflict.

In a statement e-mailed to the Sun-Times, mayoral spokesman Tom Alexander said Thomas’ resignation was triggered by an opinion from the newly revamped Board of Ethics.

“When the issue was raised regarding her firm’s work as a subcontractor on libraries, Thomas told the city she would proactively seek an opinion from the Board of Ethics on the matter,” Alexander wrote.

“The board determined that maintaining a seat on the Chicago Public Library Board while her firm acts as a subcontractor on library work for the [Public Building Commission] was a violation of the city’s ethics ordinance. Upon receipt of that opinion, Thomas submitted her resignation . . . to the mayor, which he accepted.”

Alexander was asked why it took the Sun-Times story to expose the apparent conflict when Emanuel has put such a premium on ethics reform, including ordering mayoral appointees to undergo annual ethics training.

“Thomas is one of hundreds of board appointees serving the City of Chicago, and she had served on the CPL board for more than a decade before Mayor Emanuel took office and renewed her appointment. We were not aware of the potential conflict until it was raised by you,” he said.

“At that time, Thomas said she would seek an advisory opinion from the Board of Ethics and comply with their recommendations regarding her role on the CPL board. Upon receipt of that opinion, Thomas submitted her resignation, and the mayor accepted it. The Board of Ethics advisory opinion did not recommend an ethics violation fine in this matter.”

Ardmore is certified by City Hall as being owned and operated by a woman and a minority.

When Ardmore applied for minority certification in April, 2004, the company reported that it had five full-time employees, no income and only listed one Dell computer as property it owned or leased.

One year later, Ardmore landed an 8 percent share of a $50 million contract to oversee Daley’s massive runway expansion project at O’Hare Airport and a chunk of another $50 million contract at the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

Contributing: Tim Novak

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