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Daley appointee: Working for the taxpayers while suing them

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Updated: June 29, 2012 8:58AM

E ight months before leaving office, Mayor Richard M. Daley hired a friend, Patricia C. Bobb, as inspector general of the Public Building Commission of Chicago, which builds schools, police stations and other government buildings.

It was a power play by Daley, a move to block his nemesis, City Hall Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, who wanted to examine the multimillion-dollar construction deals approved by the commission and expose bogus minority subcontractors.

On the job for 17 months, Bobb has little to show for her work. Now, Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to replace her as early as next month.

Bobb hasn’t filed any reports with the commission, whose 11 members include the mayor and Cook County Board President Toni Preckinkle.

Nor has Bobb spent much time on the job. She put in a total of 100 hours in her first 11 months as the commission’s part-time inspector general, according to eight bills that she’s submitted for payment. So far, she’s been paid $29,155 — at a rate of $290 an hour, plus expenses.

Her bills show Bobb has spent most of her time attending commission meetings, talking with staffers and helping determine which documents could be turned over to reporters and to Ferguson’s staff.

She also helped establish a complaint hotline that’s gotten 10 tips since it was opened last summer. Five of those cases have been closed, and five others remain under investigation by Bobb, according to commission spokeswoman Mimi Simon. Bobb didn’t return calls seeking comment.

A former Cook County prosecutor, Bobb is one of Chicago’s top female trial lawyers. She spends most of her time at her law practice, handling personal-injury cases.

Even as she worked as the commission’s part-time inspector general, Bobb began representing Shelley Davis and her husband Omar Roberts, in a lawsuit against City Hall. Davis and Roberts were injured five years ago when a 50-pound chunk of concrete fell from a viaduct downtown and landed inside their car. Bobb argued that City Hall knew concrete had been falling from the viaduct, but “they just didn’t do anything” to fix it. The city settled the case in April by paying Bobb’s clients $450,000.

City Hall had no problem with Bobb suing the city while working for the Public Building Commission, whose projects are funded by Chicago taxpayers.

“She works for the PBC, which is a separate government agency . . . so it doesn’t represent a conflict of interest,” says Emanuel spokeswoman Jennifer Hoyle.

Bobb will soon be replaced as inspector general, according to Hoyle.

But her responsibilities won’t be passed on to Ferguson, who has been pushing for the legal authority to investigate the commission and other sister agencies, including the Chicago Park District. Ferguson has been rebuffed by both the Daley and Emanuel administrations, which have only allowed Ferguson to examine Public Building Commission projects that will be owned by City Hall, like libraries.

Hoyle says the commission plans to hire another lawyer or a law firm and keep the inspector general’s position part-time. But she says there will be new rules. Among them: The inspector general will have to file quarterly reports, and commission employees will be required to report any misconduct they become aware of.

Ferguson has been critical of Bobb working for the commission while suing City Hall.

“The inspector position, as currently defined and filled by the PBC, is a gross distortion of the term ‘inspector general,’” he says. “There is no public understanding of the role she fills or the duties she performs.

“No ‘IG’ should have another job and certainly not one that places him or her in a position adverse to the city.”

Bobb and her ex-husband, Robert J. Bobb, are longtime friends and supporters of Daley.

Robert Bobb is a co-founder and operator of Cardinal Growth, a venture capital firm that invested in two companies that landed lucrative city contracts under Daley while his son, Patrick Daley, was working in Cardinal’s offices. Patrick Daley has made more than $1.2 million on his deals with Bobb.

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