Weeks after a report that he’d taken campaign contributions from a landlord whose Humboldt Park building houses a “troubled” convenience store neighbors say has been a magnet for gang activity, Ald. Roberto Maldonado’s campaign fund has reported another contribution from the same man.
Sergio Rosario, whose company owns the three-story brick building housing the Evergreen Convenient Food & Restaurant at 3301 W. Evergreen, gave $1,000 to the 26th Ward Democratic Organization in a contribution recorded by the political fund — one of two key funds benefiting Maldonado — on May 3, records show.
“That’s a personal thing,” Rosario says. “I can donate to anybody I want to.”
Maldonado didn’t respond to calls and emails.
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On April 13, the Chicago Sun-Times reported there have been shootings and other criminal activity outside the store for more than a decade and dozens of code violations inside for, among other things, selling outdated merchandise. But the store has remained open, and Maldonado’s campaign has continued to accept campaign contributions from the store and the landlord, angering neighbors.
Aldermen have a big say in how to deal with zoning and nuisance issues in their wards, often working with City Hall to crack down on problem businesses — and city officials have described Evergreen as having a “troubled” history.
But neighbors say Maldonado — an ally of Mayor Rahm Emanuel — has gone easy on Evergreen while taking campaign donations from the store and its landlord.
Two and a half months before City Hall reached a settlement with Evergreen in June 2017 for selling unlicensed tobacco products for the third time in two years, a Maldonado campaign fund reported getting $2,500 from Rosario, records show.
The settlement spelled out improvements Evergreen was supposed to make, including hiring security “to address and abate loitering, drug sales, drinking and urinating on the public way.”
Ownership of Evergreen, which leases the space from a real estate company run by Rosario, has since changed hands from one family member to another, so city officials say some parts of that agreement are now void — including the requirement to hire security.
Maldonado got $8,000 in campaign contributions from Rosario in 2016, including $5,000 that April. That was the same month city inspectors ordered the store closed for a week for violations that included “failure to cooperate with the police,” records show.
The other $3,000 came in November 2016, about six weeks after a shooting outside Evergreen galvanized neighborhood residents.
Evergreen gave $600 to a Maldonado fund in 2014 and $500 in 2015, records show.
Maldonado previously said of taking campaign money from Rosario, a longtime friend, “Why would I reject it?”
But he said, “At no point did I stop doing my job” of working in the public interest.
One of its operators has said the store is doing what it can to keep gangs away from the corner.