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Clout-heavy company got city water-meter deal

A plumbing company owned by the sister of Mayor Daley's former patronage chief was paid $1.6 million over the last three years to help upgrade thousands of Chicago water meters.

Toltec Plumbing is owned by attorney Virginia Reyes, whose brother Victor Reyes, now a lobbyist, once ran Daley's patronage office. Victor Reyes also led the Hispanic Democratic Organization, a Daley patronage army that ceased operations amid a federal investigation into illegal hiring at City Hall.

Toltec was one of the biggest subcontractors under a $67.6 million contract the city gave Badger Meters Inc., of Milwaukee, to upgrade 160,000 residential and commercial water meters so they could be read electronically by meter readers driving down the street. About half the meters were replaced. The others were modified so they could be read automatically.

Badger paid Toltec $1.6 million to provide plumbers for the recently completed upgrades, according to both companies.

By hiring Toltec, Badger met City Hall's requirement that some of the work be given to companies owned and operated by women and minorities.

"Toltec was on the city's list of approved MBEs" -- minority-owned business enterprises, said Richard A. Meeusen, Badger's chief executive officer. "We felt they were the most qualified for the job. They had the most reasonable price."

Reyes said her brother had no role in Toltec getting the work. She said she had two plumbers who did "whatever plumbing work needed to be done'' under the contract.

Eight years ago, another city contractor hired Toltec to provide toilets and plumbing supplies for two new warehouses at O'Hare Airport. The Chicago Sun-Times later reported that Toltec had purchased the plumbing supplies from a suburban company owned by white men, then resold the items at inflated prices to the city's contractor, who was required to hire companies owned and operated by women and minorities.

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