Former Hired Truck kingpin helping to dig out Chicago neighborhoods

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Former Hired Truck kingpin Michael Tadin is among a handful of contractors cashing in on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s pre-election decision to lease heavy equipment to help Chicago neighborhoods dig out from the Super Bowl Sunday blizzard.

With the mayoral election just over two weeks away, Emanuel is sparing no expense in response to a blizzard of complaints about side-streets, alleys and sidewalks still buried in snow.

Earlier this week, he decided to lease 220 pieces of heavy equipment and operators to assist in the neighborhood cleanup.

It was the first time that City Hall had shifted into what’s known as Phase 4 of its snow plan since the Ground Hog Day blizzard of 2011, which shut down Lake Shore Drive and stranded hundreds of motorists and CTA buses for hours.

That happened in the waning months of former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration and produced embarrassing photographs seen around the world.

Emanuel vowed never to repeat it.

Now, Tadin’s MAT Leasing is one of five contractors supplying the city with heavy equipment and operators. The other contractors are: KLF Trucking; Plote Construction; Brandenburg Industrial; Plote Construction and Christofano Equipment. KLF was also among the gravy train of contractors to benefit from the Hired Truck program before it was disbanded in 2005.

Precise payments to the five contractors have not yet been tabulated because the city’s “snow operation” is still going on. But it won’t come cheap and is certain to add millions to the massive overtime being paid to city snow removal crews.

Tadin’s five-year, $4.9 million contract awarded in 2012 includes rates that range from $85 an hour for the smallest equipment and operator to $280 an hour for the biggest. The city contract, one of seven for heavy equipment and operators during “natural disasters,” was competitively bid.

Tadin is the perennial city trucking magnate whose $1.25 million loan to a security company co-owned by then-Ald. Patrick Huels (11th) forced the 1997 resignation of Daley’s former City Council floor leader. Tadin’s trucking company had received a $1.1 million city subsidy with Huels’ help.

Tadin was the undisputed king of Hired Trucks, emerging from the pack, even after City Hall accused the company of overbilling and agreed to spread the wealth to other firms. No overbilling was ever documented.

The program was disbanded in 2005 after the Chicago Sun-Times blew the lid off a scandal that saw clout-heavy companies, some with ties to organized crime, get paid for doing little or no work.

The Hired Truck scandal that branched out into city hiring and produced an eye-popping 49 convictions, 31 of them city employees was not the only scandal involving Tadin.

In 1998, Daley dumped then-Fleet Management Commissioner Rick Santella after two underlings accused Santella of steering business to Tadin.

Santella was replaced by Robert Degnan, whose brother, Tim, was Daley’s political enforcer and intergovernmental affairs chief.

The city’s inspector general subsequently accused Fleet Management of improperly policing the Hired Truck program. The inspector general also recommended the firing of an assistant fleet commissioner who allegedly presided over Tadin trucking contracts while his wife and son worked for Tadin-owned Marina Cartage.

Four years ago, MAT Leasing provided high-lift equipment, front-end loaders and 50 dump trucks that played a pivotal role in clearing Lake Shore Drive from Interstate 55 on the south to North Avenue. Tadin’s trucks also helped clear downtown and neighborhood streets.

Tadin refused to say how many pieces of equipment or how many operators he has provided to the city this week. He referred all questions about the Phase 4 call-out to City Hall.

In recent years, MAThas received roughly $37 million in payments from the city.

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