A son-in-law of former Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios is being sued by the Chicago Public Schools, which says he failed to pay “no less than” $366,000 under deals that allowed his company to park cars at 10 elementary schools, mostly for baseball fans going to Cubs games last year.
According to the lawsuit filed in Cook County circuit court, James T. Weiss and his parking business stopped paying CPS last April for the right to park cars at three schools closest to Wrigley Field — but kept charging customers to park there anyway.
Weiss, the husband of former state Rep. Maria “Toni” Berrios, has co-owned several parking companies, including Blk & Wht Valet LLC, which has contracted with individual CPS schools near sporting facilities for about eight years to use their parking lots.
On Nov. 19, Weiss told CPS his company would no longer be parking cars on school property. That was in a phone call shortly after the Chicago Tribune reported his offices were raided as part of the federal investigation of now-former state Rep Luis Arroyo. Arroyo has since been charged in a federal bribery case involving unregulated video gambling machines.
Weiss — who also owns Collage LLC, which operates unregulated video terminals known as sweepstakes machines — has been lobbying state and city officials to legalize the machines.
Weiss, 41, of River Grove, hasn’t been charged with any crime. He couldn’t be reached for comment.
His partner, restaurateur Iman Bambooyani, 38, of Chicago, said he would call back but didn’t.
Their lawyer Raymond Sanguinetti wouldn’t comment.
Born and raised in Bridgeport, Weiss comes from a family with deep political connections.
Edward J. Murray, his grandfather, was deputy to former city Treasurer Miriam Santos and was part owner of two restaurants at Navy Pier.
Weiss’s mother Mary Murray runs Benton House, a Bridgeport charity that has long been supported by the Daley family.
On Nov. 13 — after Weiss’ office was raided — his mother replaced him as chairwoman and treasurer of the Alliance of Illinois Taxpayers, a political action committee supported by personal injury lawyers with ties to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.
Six days later, on Nov. 19, CPS says he told them he was ending his company’s agreements to park cars on school property “effective immediately.”
But, according to the lawsuit, Weiss continued to park cars at Blaine Elementary School until Dec. 12 for patrons of the nearby Mercury Theater and the Music Box Theater.
CPS says Weiss, Bambooyani and their companies breached their agreements with the schools, failing to pay “no less than $366,067.33 to date plus 5% interest” even as they kept parking cars on school lots.
“Defendants continued to receive income from customers for the parking services while not fulfilling its payments,” according to the lawsuit.
Most of the money — at least $318,000 — is owed to Inter-American Magnet School, which is four blocks east of Wrigley Field. Weiss was supposed to pay the school $31,800 a month, but he tried repeatedly to get CPS to cut the monthly payment, saying taxes and ride-sharing companies were cutting into his profits. CPS also rejected Weiss’ efforts to cancel the deals.
Inter-American’s principal and Local School Council co-chairs didn’t return messages seeking comment.
According to the lawsuit, Blk & Wht began skipping payments last April to three schools that had been getting that extra income thanks to their proximity to Wrigley Field: Inter-American, Blaine and Brennemann.
In November, the company began skipping payments to seven other schools, according to CPS: Alcott, New Field, Goudy, McCutcheon, Suder Montessori Magnet, Franklin and Walt Disney Magnet.
Altogether, the CPS lawsuit says the schools are owed $366,000 — but the individual losses listed for each school add up to about $450,000.
A CPS spokeswoman wouldn’t explain that discrepancy.
In 2018, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation found that Weiss’ company employed a convicted child sex offender to park cars at the Inter-American lot adjacent to its playground while children were playing there, a violation of state law. The parking company’s contracts with CPS required it to do fingerprint-based criminal-background checks with the FBI and the Illinois State Police on employees “who may have contact with CPS students.”
CPS decided the company’s employees “do not interact with CPS students,” so Blk & Wht wasn’t required to check its workers’ backgrounds. But the school system later amended its deals with the parking company, eliminating the provision about background checks at the same time it stepped up checks for its own employees and volunteers.