City contractor accused of ‘reserving’ jobs for alderman’s office

SHARE City contractor accused of ‘reserving’ jobs for alderman’s office

City Hall exteriors /Rich Hein/Sun-Times file photo

Ever since the city hiring scandal triggered the appointment of a federal hiring monitor, there has been speculation that city contractors may be picking up the slack by hiring candidates recommended by Chicago aldermen.

On Monday, Inspector General Joe Ferguson pretty much verified that speculation–at least in one instance.

In his quarterly report, Ferguson shined the light on a previously undisclosed scheme that saw a city contractor “reserve jobs for individuals based on political considerations,” in violation of both city rules and the terms of the company’s multi-million dollar contract with the city.

The contractor added insult to injury by failing to “fully cooperate” with the inspector general’s investigation. The alderman blew the whistle on the scheme.

As always, the names of the accused were not disclosed. But the scheme was interesting enough without those details.

“In 2014, the contractor sent an email to an alderman’s employee stating that the contractor would be “reserving 25 jobs for the alderman’s ward,” Ferguson wrote in his quarterly report.

“In addition to offering an exact number of jobs, the email provided details on assigned rates and shifts and asked the aldermanic office to supply names of interested applicants. On two occasions during OIG’s subsequent investigation, a supervisor for the contractor refused to answer relevant questions regarding the individual’s prior employment and relationship with the alderman in question.”

Ferguson noted that the alderman’s office “promptly reported the email” to the inspector general’s office.

The inspector general recommended that the city’s Department of Procurement Service “initiate debarment proceedings” banning the contractor from doing business with the city.

Ferguson further recommended that the Department of Aviation that awarded the contract prohibit the supervisor from “performing any work pursuant to the company’s contract.”

Debarment proceedings were, in fact, initiated.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s former patronage chief, his Streets and Sanitation Commission and several others were convicted of rigging city hiring to benefit the now-defunct Hispanic Democratic Organization and other pro-Daley armies of political workers.

After a hiring scandal that cost Chicago taxpayers $22.9 million over a ten-year-period, attorney Michael Shakman and federal hiring monitor Noelle Brennan filed a joint motion in federal court in 2014 arguing that the city had reached the “substantial compliance” needed to be released from federal oversight.

A federal judge agreed, dismissing the long-running case that began in 1969 and Brennan. That left the job of policing city hiring, firing and promotions to Ferguson.

Ferguson’s quarterly report also accused an investigator for the Department of Water Management of “habitually” referring citizens to a private plumber and “identified homes needing work and provided those addresses” to the plumber.

“Homeowners at some of those addresses later found the plumber’s business card in their mailboxes. The inspector’s actions amounted to preferential treatment of the plumber,” Ferguson wrote.

The city was alerted to the scheme after a citizen complained about shoddy work, the report states.

Water Management planned to impose a 29-day suspension, but the investigator resigned before the suspension could be finalized, the inspector general wrote.

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