Following the surprise exit of Tim Baldermann from the 11th District congressional race, the Illinois GOP has spent the past month scrambling to find a viable candidate to take on State Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson. Lagging considerably in fundraising, it seemed ...
Following the surprise exit of Tim Baldermann from the 11th District congressional race, the Illinois GOP has spent the past month scrambling to find a viable candidate to take on State Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson. Lagging considerably in fundraising, it seemed likely that state Republicans would push for a candidate willing to self-fund. And sure enough, the Illinois Review is reporting today that the county chairmen in the district have tapped Martin Ozinga III. There's been no official announcement yet. But if controversy is something the Republicans are looking to avoid, Ozinga might be the wrong choice.
Although Ozinga has never run for office, close followers of Chicago politics might be familiar with him. He's the owner of Ozinga Bros. Inc, a concrete pouring company based in Orland Park. As Archpundit noted when Ozinga's name was first floated, the company was the centerpiece of a lengthy 2005 Tribune investigation that found his company frequently evaded city rules and exploited an affirmative-action program to win lucrative city contracts during the late-80s and early-90s. From the January 27, 2005, Tribune article:
The company’s actions include creating a spinoff concrete firm in the 1980s to win city business reserved exclusively for minority-owned companies. Martin, Richard and James Ozinga–all white men–enlisted the help of two African-American churches in Chicago’s depressed South Side, giving nine church members 51 percent ownership to technically meet the city’s rules.
But two of the African-American church members now say the spinoff company was bogus and that minorities had little control of the business. “It was a classic front,” church member Henry Washington says.
In 1994, Ozinga’s reliance on front companies backfired. Metro Mix, run initially by the two South Side churches but eventually taken over by three different minority investors, became self-sufficient. When a bid came up for an $11 million concrete contract with the city, Metro Mix actually beat out Ozinga for the deal. Furious, Ozinga bought out one partial owner, assumed majority control, and quickly shut the business down. Just two years later, he sued the city, arguing affirmative action programs were unconstitutional because they discriminated against white business owners.
Got that? They argued that the city was disenfranchising white contractors.
More after the jump ...
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, city officials exempted Ozinga Bros. Inc, from virtually all minority set-aside requirements, justifying the decision by claiming that the company could not find minority subcontractors to work on their projects. Of course, appeasing Ozinga Bros. appeared to be the real basis for the deal.
It seems to have worked out for Ozinga. In 1997, the company was awarded the city’s concrete contract, totaling $46 million dollars. According to the Tribune, “instead of paying $11.8 million since 1997 to minority subcontractors–the normal share for minorities–the Ozingas pledged to pay about $560,000, or about 20 times less.” When that deal expired in 2003, Ozinga signed a new contract with the Chicago Department of Transportation, this time to the tune of $18 million. A timely $25,000 donation to the pro-Daley Hispanic Democratic Organization may have help sway the city’s decision. And according to city records, Ozinga Bros. garnered another concrete contract in 2006, worth up to $27.5 million by 2009.
Following is a list of Ozinga contracts since January 2005:
*March 8, 2005 for $38,752.00
EMERGENCY PURCHASE OF SAND, DEPARTMENT OF WATER MANAGEMENT
*August 10, 2005 for $22,000.00
EMERGENCY REQUEST FOR CONCRETE, CHICAGO DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
*October 10, 2005 for $24,535.00
EMERGECNY REQUEST CONTRACT, CONCRETE SOUTH SECTION, DSS
DEPT OF STREETS & SANITATION
*December 2, 2005 for $250,000.00
EMERGENCY REQUEST CONTRACT FOR CONCRETE, CHICAGO DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
*May 16, 2006 for up to $27,505,227.00 (End date: Feb. 28, 2009)
READY MIX CONCRETE, MOBILE MIX CONCRETE AND FLOWABLE BACK FILL, CHICAGO DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION