Clout-heavy Chicago businessman: Aim of airport deal is to boost Gary’s economy as much as his bottom line
THE WATCHDOGS: Elzie Higginbottom Jr., a clout-heavy Chicago real estate developer, is set to land a long-term deal to provide aircraft storage, fueling, maintenance and other services at Gary’s government-owned airport. The deal with Higginbottom’s East Lake Management & Development comes after he put $10,000 into Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s political fund in September 2011 — her biggest campaign contribution. But a company official says East Lake primarily is hoping to give a boost to Gary’s economy and doesn’t expect to turn much of a profit.
THE WATCHDOGS: The Teamsters union in Chicago is a family business — the Coli family. Union boss John Coli — one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s few supporters in organized labor — and his two sons together were paid more than $615,000 last year for their work in leadership roles with the Teamsters, according to public records.
THE WATCHDOGS: For two years, Raymond Orozco Jr. led the Chicago Fire Department as fire commissioner. But when it came time to calculate the city fire pension he now gets, Orozco got credit for four years in that position under a potentially lucrative secret deal engineered by the Daley administration, a Chicago Sun-Times / Better Government Association investigation has found.The difference? For now, it’s about $27,000 a year in Orozco’s pocket. Over his lifetime, it could amount to an additional $800,000.
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THE WATCHDOGS, Part 2 of 2: Ald. Edward M. Burke is trying to get more than $11 million out of City Hall. That’s how much he’s seeking from the city in property-tax refunds as the attorney for the likes of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios and Donald Trump, Commonwealth Edison and AT&T, a Chicago Sun-Times review of state and county tax records found.
Ald. Edward M. Burke helped pass an measure in 2002 that sharply limited City Hall’s ability to get in the way when his law clients go before a state agency appealing for refunds of property taxes they say were too high, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.
A California company that claimed to raise money for breast-cancer awareness is being sued by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan after a Chicago Sun-Times investigation last year found that some charities the company claimed to benefit received little or no money.
The embattled United Neighborhood Organization announced steps Tuesday its leaders hope will win the resumption of tens of millions of dollars in state funding for construction of a charter high school on the Southwest Side.
When Gov. Pat Quinn pardoned a politically connected city of Chicago health department official in late 2011, he didn’t just erase Juan Elias’ rap sheet, which included convictions for marijuana possession, burglary and vote fraud. The pardon also kept Elias, who heads 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno’s political organization, safely in the $78,828-a-year city job that he got after after failing to disclose on his job application that he had a criminal past.
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.
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.