Quick Hit Micah Maidenberg Thursday October 7th, 2010, 1:47pm

An Extra Set Of Eyes On Big Contracts

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32rd Ward) introduced a bill at yesterday's meeting of Chicago's City Council that would give aldermen oversight over large city contracts. (Aldermen have had no formal mechanism to review such deals since 1989.) The Procurement Review Ordinance (PDF) says that prior to the final award of all contracts above $500,000, the city's chief procurement officer must send the contract to the council's Committee on Finance, which then has 30 days for review. Procurement gets a chance to respond in writing to issues that come up in committee. Competitively and no-bid contracts are both covered by Waguespack's bill.

Contracting has been a constant source of scandal during Mayor Richard Daley's tenure. Given that council oversight of City Hall contracting is now formally on the table, what agreements inked by the Daley administration could have used an extra set of eyes? Here are three that come to mind:

  • By the late 1990s, Windy City Maintenance was getting around $13 million annually in City of Chicago business as a certified woman-owned business. But the firm was controlled by the notorious Duff Family, and later the center of a massive investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office here.
  • Between 1989 and early 2000, the Daley Administration paid the politically connected firm G.F. Structures $55 million for iron fencing and other construction work. The Tribune found that fence deal allowed the company to "regularly charge prices far higher than those in its contract."
  • Daley was spending some $40 million annually on hauling firms that did little or no work, the Sun-Times revealed in their epic investigation into the mayor's Hired Truck Program.

These certainly aren't the only contracting scandals for which Daley is responsible. For more on Chicago's contracts, check out Dan X. O'Neil's CityPayments.org and his recent primer on the issue for the mayoral candidates.

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