Cicero’s municipal government has paid a printing company $5.6 million since Town President Larry Dominick took office more than a decade ago – but there’s no record the company was subjected to a competitive bidding process or even has a written contract.
There is, however, a record of something else: More than $122,000 in campaign donations made by the firm, Diamond Graphics, to Dominick’s campaign fund since he took over leadership of the western suburb in 2005, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Dominick’s spokesman Ray Hanania adamantly denied there was any pay-to-play with Diamond, run by a Dominick political ally, Paul DiMenna, who declined to comment.
Either way, this is just the latest questionable deal for Cicero taxpayers under Dominick, whose administration also has:
- Hired a towing company owned by the in-laws of Michael Del Galdo, a Dominick ally and Cicero’s town attorney. Tuff Car Co. tows vehicles for the town government, but the Better Government Association has found it didn’t share revenues or pay rent for a town-owned parcel. Tuff Car Co. has donated roughly $82,000 to Dominick’s campaign funds since 2005.
- Paid more than $15 million over the last decade to a garbage company that has no written contract with Cicero and which kept its municipal duties, at least in recent years, without competitive bidding. The company and its executives have donated nearly $130,000 to Dominick’s campaign fund over the years.
- Received a subpoena from the U.S. attorney’s office, which sought records relating to two other municipal vendors with ties to Dominick: You & Me Inc. and Lembke & Sons True Value Hardware. The firms have been paid $890,000 and $3 million, respectively, by Cicero since 2005 and collectively donated $75,000 to Dominick’s campaign fund, records show.
There’s no evidence that Diamond is part of that federal probe but, aside from the money, the deal remains curious.
Last year, Cicero paid Diamond $3,053 for pizza cutters, $4,350 for “koozies,” or foam insulating sleeves for bottles and cans, and $7,485 for stress balls, according to town records obtained by the BGA under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
In all, the town paid the firm $805,422 in 2015, town records show. That included $379,000 for services related to the production of English and Spanish versions of a municipal newsletter.
“It’s our main source of information and it is mailed to 21,100 homes,” Hanania says, adding, “Diamond Graphics has been printing with the Town of Cicero since 1991. We like what he does. He is consistent, efficient and professional.”
However, Cicero’s own records show no payments to Diamond in the three years before Dominick’s first election.
Berwyn Mayor Robert Lovero, a licensed attorney, is listed on state records as the company’s registered agent. And Diamond contributed more than $19,000 to Lovero’s campaign fund since 2005, according to the elections board.
Berwyn has paid Diamond $478,763 since 2008, according to the most recently available data and interviews. That includes the $86,135 that Berwyn paid the firm last year, the highest annual total in the last eight years.
Berwyn uses the company – which also was apparently hired without competitive bidding or a formal contract – to print everything from water bills to business cards and newsletters.
Lovero didn’t return messages. Anthony Bertuca, Berwyn’s city attorney, says Lovero has never had a financial stake in the firm.
The company is not one of the mayor’s legal clients, though Lovero has represented DiMenna in two real estate closings, Bertuca says.
Berwyn’s municipal government uses Diamond Graphics because “they’re a local business and they’re right down the block” from City Hall, Bertuca says, adding he doesn’t find anything unethical about the arrangement.
This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Andrew Schroedter, who can be reached at email@example.com.