Quinn: “no shenanigans” with UNO grant
By TINA SFONDELES and DAN MIHALOPOULOS Staff Reporters June 8, 2013 3:10PM
Gov. Pat Quinn tours the farmer's market Saturday at 61st Street and Dorchester Avenue in Chicago. | Tina Sfondeles~Sun-Times
Updated: July 10, 2013 6:51AM
Vowing to ensure there will be “no shenanigans” with a state charter-school grant, Gov. Pat Quinn on Saturday defended his decision to restore funding to the politically influential United Neighborhood Organization.
Quinn had cut off UNO’s $98 million grant six weeks ago, after the Chicago Sun-Times reported $8.5 million in taxpayer money given to UNO went to companies owned by two brothers of the group’s No. 2 executive. But a day after his aides said the grant suspension will be lifted, Quinn said his about-face doesn’t mean he condones the money going to UNO insiders.
“No, we’re very displeased with that,” the governor said at an appearance at a farmers market on the South Side.
Quinn said the not-for-profit organization IFF, which will oversee the completion of the UNO Soccer Academy Charter High School at 51st and St. Louis that the newly released state money will pay to finish, has a “sterling reputation.”
“It’s very important that we make sure it’s done right,” the governor said. “We want those children to have a school they can go to this fall, but there will be no conflicts of interest and no shenanigans with respect to its construction.”
Juan Rangel, UNO’s chief executive officer, has apologized for the scandal and announced the appointment of new directors for the Hispanic community group and its 13-school charter network. Quinn’s decision to give UNO another chance came after Ald. Edward Burke (14th) — a major Quinn campaign donor — backed Rangel and urged the governor to restore the state funding.
Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia (D-Chicago) said Quinn shouldn’t have done that unless Rangel resigned or was removed from his $250,000-a-year post.
“To demonstrate integrity, Juan needs to step aside,” said Garcia, a longtime Rangel rival. “I can think of no responsible community organization that would tolerate unethical practices of such a magnitude without holding its executive leadership accountable.”
UNO’s charter network relies almost entirely on Chicago Public School funding for its operations and on state money to build new schools.
Quinn aides said d’Escoto Inc. and Reflection Window Co. will no longer work for UNO. They are owned by brothers of Miguel d’Escoto, who quit his $200,000-a-year job as UNO’s No. 2 executive in February, after reports in the Chicago Sun-Times revealed the state money went to his brothers’ companies.
D’Escoto Inc. owner Federico “Fred” d’Escoto stepped down from UNO’s board in 2010, shortly before his company began to receive state money under a no-bid deal as “owner’s representative” on grant-funded UNO school projects. Miguel d’Escoto was on the d’Escoto Inc. board while he was working for UNO, records show.