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Posted by on November 2, 2009 10:02 PM | Permalink
Minority certification process debated
November 2, 2009
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
Simplifying the minority certification process is the key to ending Chicago’s perennial struggle to boost minority contracting, a top mayoral aide said Monday.
Certification that gives companies a leg-up on city contracts was made infinitely more rigorous after a series of scandals that culminated in the $100 million fraud by the mob-connected Duff family.
But, Chief Procurement Officer Jamie Rhee argued that the pendulum may have swung too far in the other direction.
“We are committed to making it easier to become certified. That is how we increase our numbers,” Rhee said, during testimony at City Council budget hearings.
“The more certified firms we have, the more opportunities we have to issue target-markets [allowing minorities to compete against each other for the role of prime contractor], thereby increasing the numbers.”
Noting that the application is 17 pages long and the average certification takes 175 days, she said, “Our primary focus is getting that down to where it’s manageable and efficient and timely.”
Mayor Daley’s 2010 budget shifts policing of Chicago’s scandal-scarred minority business program from Procurement Services to an Office of Compliance that already has its hands full implementing a hiring system free of politics.
As part of that transition, Rhee said she and Compliance chief Anthony Boswell made a commitment to “take a look at this again and see what we’re asking for and why.”
Of the $1.4 billion in city contracts awarded through Sept. 30, only eight percent or $117.8 million went to African-Americans, the same share as Asian-Americans. Hispanics got $179.2 million or 13 percent while women fell to $86 million or six percent.
“These numbers are dismal. ... If these companies cannot get any stronger, they’re never gonna be able to hire anybody in our community,” Ald. Ed Smith (28th) told Rhee.
“The repercussions that we’re gonna get in our community about this — it’s just horrible. People beat up on us about these numbers. They get on the radio and they talk about us about these numbers. And the only thing we get is the same thing over and over every single year. I want to see some improvement.”
If minority certification is made too easy, it could lead to a surge in minority contracting fraud, a chronic problem throughout Daley’s 20-year reign.
In 2005, James Duff pleaded guilty to masterminding a scheme to defraud the city of $100 million in contracts earmarked for minorities and women.
A string of revelations by the Chicago Sun-Times provided further proof that Daley's minority set-aside program had been manipulated by the politically connected at the expense of minorities.
They included: a company brokering plumbing supplies owned by the sister of former Daley political enforcer Victor Reyes; a minority telecommunications company partially owned by Richard J. Daley’s longtime patronage chief Tom Donovan, and an O’Hare Airport restaurant owned by Billy Goat tavern owner Sam Sianis that was placed in the name of Sianis’ wife, apparently at the city’s direction.
Daley's friend and family program |
November 2, 2009 10:17 PM
You run with some strange dudes.
November 3, 2009 12:58 AM
Zoning investigator admits taking bribes for false inspections
November 3, 2009
BY NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts
The owners of a North side apartment building wanted to add two illegal units to their property in 2007, but they had to find a way to get it passed City Hall.
According to a plea deal in federal court, they got the permit papers they needed — by paying off a City Hall inspector.
A zoning investigator for the city admitted this morning that for years he pocketed bribes in exchange for pushing through inspections, some of which were falsified.
William Wellhausen, 52, of Chicago, said that in 2007, he took an $8,000 bribe as a tradeoff for dummying up a phony inspection report to make it appear a residential building at 1637-39 West Granville had two pre-existing units in its basement.
Wellhausen wrote up a false report and took “creative” photos to make it look as if the units were already there, according to his plea deal.
“For that, I received an envelope of $8,000,” Wellhausen told U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow in court this morning.
Wellhausen’s plea deal says the owners of the building — Dumitru Curescu and Lavinia Curescu — were willing to pay off Wellhausen for his phony work. The bribe was passed from an unnamed individual who was cooperating with the government, according to the plea agreement. The Curescus were also charged by prosecutors.
After writing up the false report, Wellhausen traveled to a gas station at the corner of Touhy and Cicero. He met with the unnamed individual, an expediter who handed him an envelope containing $8,000 in cash. In an earlier conversation caught on tape, Wellhausen can be heard talking about the plot.
“I’m giving him two extra ones that he’s going to build,” Wellhausen told a cooperating individual in the case. “He has nothing. I mean, I’m completely fabricating two other ones.”
Wellhausen also admitted he took bribes in unrelated cases to ignore violations or to expedite permit approval.
Wellhausen is just the latest in a slew of inspectors and businesspeople who were caught up in Operation Crooked Code, a front by the feds to crack down on bribe-taking out of City Hall.
He’s agreed to testify at future trials involving the crooked code investigation, including the Curescus trial.
Wellhausen is named on the clout list that came out in the trial of Mayor Daley’s patronage director, Robert Sorich. Wellhausen got a city job with help from then-Ald. William Banks’ ward organization, according to the list.
Alderman Banks azz is getting hot. |
November 3, 2009 4:18 PM