The United Neighborhood Organization needs to adopt “robust conflict-of-interest” policies in the wake of a scandal that’s jeopardized tens of millions of dollars of state funding for UNO’s network of charter schools in Chicago, a retired federal judge hired by the politically influential group urged Thursday.
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s staff was aware of major problems with the city’s parking-meter privatization deal in 2010 — a year and a half before the costly issues publicly surfaced, according to hundreds of pages of documents released Wednesday by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration.
THE WATCHDOGS: Three years after Metra said it would look into its police department’s bulging budget for extra work hours, the department has been riding an overtime express, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis finds. Sgt. John K. Geraty’s OT pay was tops among police officers who work for Metra. His total pay was $154,446, with more than half of that — $90,273 — for overtime.
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THE WATCHDOGS: Now under investigation by two state agencies, the United Neighborhood Organization is also facing tough questions on Wall Street from the investors who lent tens of millions of dollars to help pay for the rapid expansion of UNO’s charter-school network. The questions were prompted by Chicago Sun-Times reports on state grant money paid to companies owned by two brothers of Miguel d’Escoto, a top executive of the politically well-connected group.
The involuntary manslaughter trial of Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko, the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley accused in the death of 21-year-old David Koschman, won’t happen till next year, the judge in the case said Tuesday. Meanwhile, a grand jury investigation led by special prosecutor Dan K. Webb into the way the case was handled by the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office continues longer than expected and is now expected to be completed in July.
Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) went to bat Wednesday for the embattled United Neighborhood Organization, urging his ally Gov. Pat Quinn to resume funding for an UNO charter school being built in his Southwest Side ward. Last month, Quinn suspended the remaining payments from a $98 million state school construction grant to UNO after the Chicago Sun-Times reported that $8.5 million of the state money went to companies owned by two brothers of Miguel d’Escoto, a top UNO executive who resigned following the reports. Quinn, who has been a supporter of UNO, demanded an audit be done before the state
THE WATCHDOGS: The CTA says it has a way to make L stations safer: Get rid of most of its private security guards. Spurred by a deal with a key union, the transit agency has begun replacing the hundreds of contract security guards it now uses to patrol L and subway stops with full- and part-time CTA customer-service employees.
As the largest charter-school operator in Illinois, the United Neighborhood Organization depends largely on City Hall and Springfield. It also borrows money — from banks and on Wall Street — to pay its bills. Here’s where the money comes from.
Construction was halted Tuesday on a new, state-funded charter high school being built on the Southwest Side for the state’s largest charter-school operator, the politically influential United Neighborhood Organization, after the project’s general contractor said UNO has fallen behind in its payments for the work. The move came five days after Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration suspended funding to UNO following Chicago Sun-Times reports on insider deals.
Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration has cut off funding to the state’s largest charter-school operator, the politically influential United Neighborhood Organization, over insider deals it says violated the terms of a $98 million state grant, according to a letter obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times. The deals involved millions of dollars in state funds that went to companies owned by two brothers of a high-ranking UNO executive, Miguel d’Escoto.
THE WATCHDOGS: Weeks after Federico “Fred” d’Escoto stepped down from the board of the United Neighborhood Organization, his company, d’Escoto Inc., got its first check from the influential charter-school operator toward what now totals $1.8 million in state-funded payments.
THE WATCHDOGS: The McHenry County judge presiding over the manslaughter case of former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew is now the subject of a judicial ethics investigation over her divorce from a man who continues to live with her seven years later while owing his former law clients hundreds of thousands of dollars.
More than $1 million — that’s the final tally for the special prosecutor’s investigation that led to a manslaughter charge against former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko after the Chicago Police Department and Cook County state’s attorney’s office twice declined to charge him in the 2004 death of David Koschman.
THE WATCHDOGS: One of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s biggest campaign contributors has the president of the Fraternal Order of Police on his company’s payroll — a relationship that has come to light as Emanuel and the union try to negotiate a new contract for 10,400 Chicago cops.
THE WATCHDOGS: City Hall paid private attorneys $21.9 million last year — about $420,000 a week — to handle disputes ranging from police brutality lawsuits to an alderman’s fight over a hot dog stand’s name. More than half of those legal bills went toward defending the Chicago Police Department, city records show. The city’s tab for outside lawyers has risen sharply since 1998, when it came to a then-record $7.2 million.
THE WATCHDOGS: A politically connected business venture won a three-year, $38.4 million county contract to supply meals to the Cook County Jail after one of its partners wrongly claimed disadvantaged minority status. Cook County officials gave the contract to CBM Premier Management LLC even though its pricetag was $2.1 million higher than the losing proposal, from longtime jail contractor Aramark Correctional Services LLC. The winning bidder includes Airport Restaurant Management Inc., whose owner Timothy Rand has been a big campaign contributor to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and other politicians.
Gov. Pat Quinn’s executive inspector general has opened an investigation into the politically influential United Neighborhood Organization’s use of a $98 million state grant for new charter schools, after a report in the Chicago Sun-Times that UNO gave millions of dollars in contracts for the schools to companies with ties to the organization’s top officials.
In the annals of Chicago law firms, there’s probably no better known name than Genson & Gillespie. The pair, legendary for their work in state and federal court, are no longer partners.
For years, McMahon Food Corp. delivered milk to the Cook County Jail as a subcontractor for Aramark Correctional Services LLC. Aramark lost its contract to provide food to the jail last summer. But McMahon Food, a Little Village dairy supplier with deep ties to Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) and other public officials, is still delivering the jail’s milk, working for the company that beat out Aramark for the jail contract.