It was disclosed this week that the city's pension funds invested $68 million in a real estate development company run by Allison Davis, a former partner with convicted fundraiser and realtor Antoin "Tony" Rezko, and Robert Vanecko.
Rezko's name stands out, of course. But Vanecko might not unless you know that he is the grandson of the late great Mayor Richard J. Daley and the nephew of the almost as great Richard M. Daley. Vanecko was previously a partner with Daley's son Patrick in a business that received huge contracts from Daley's City Hall.
No law has been broken -- that we know of. But, it is genuinely unethical for the city pension funds to put $68 million in the Davis Vanecko firm, called, uncreatively, DV Urban Realty. Who needs to be creative when the City Hall-controlled pension, many of whose members are appointed by the mayor, dumps $68 million in money hard earned by city employees like the Chicago Police?
Defenders of the deal include, of course, Mayor Daley, who brushed off the probe into the deal with his usual jumble of mumbled words. And it was defended by celebrity pundit Paul Green, who on WTTW Channel 11 Tuesday night questioned why people were talking about the deal at all, slamming critics and asking repeatedly, "What is illegal?"
How about, "What is unethical?" Paul.
Green is an insider these days, hobnobbing with the political elite that manage candidates for offices like the U.S. Senate and shaking hands at luncheons where powerful speakers are invited, like Mayor Daley and his government colleagues.
The Chicago pension fund scandal reminds many of the days when the union pension funds would invest millions in casino operations in Las Vegas that were run not by politicians but by mobsters, although oftentimes it has been hard to distinguish between the two, especially in Chicago.
Vanecko resigned from this sweetheart deal 13 days after the federal government joined the city Inspector General and subpoenaed the investment records. Ironically, the Inspector General had previously asked for the documents and DV Urban refused to hand them over, according to reports.
Yes, Paul, this is called a "sweetheart deal." This is called an "insider" contract. Was the law broken or not? I don't know. Fortunately the U.S. Attorney's office is now looking in to it and will decide that on its own. But it is exactly the kind of stench-like investments that have pushed our pension funds into the troubles they now have.
Now turn to the "scandal" surrounding the Town of Cicero, where former police officer Larry Dominick is the target of several lawsuits by female employees accusing him of sexual harassment.
Several of those filing the lawsuits are political foes. One is the daughter of the people who own one of the small Hispanic language newspapers whose pages were filled with scurrilous and outrageous accusations against Dominick in the last election and who also received jobs, contracts and huge advertising from Dominick's predecessor, the disgraced and convicted former Town President Betty Loren Maltese.
I worked for Maltese between 1993 and 1996, leaving when the FBI outlined for me her alleged crimes and when Maltese refused to explain to me her involvement in the FBI's allegations of town insurance misconduct. But that was long before Dominick became Town president.
The story was broken by great reporting from FOX Chicago News. And it is a great story, too. Every political action is worth covering and FOX Chicago did a professional job.
But I had to wonder about the Better Government Association and its new head Andy Shaw, the former WLS TV reporter.
Shaw was all over the lawsuits filed against Dominick. And he was also all over a prior report which noted that Dominick had many relatives working at Town Hall. Many of the relatives were not working at Town Hall at all, of course, but at other agencies that Cicero has some influence over. Most received their jobs before Dominick became president.
I thought it curious Shaw would hammer Dominick over the Cicero controversies but not say one word about the $68 million that the city's pension funds invested in a company in which Daley's nephew was made a partner.
Cicero is surrounded by controversy. It's easy pickings. There are political battles there all the time. Whether Dominick is guilty or innocent -- he denies any wrongdoing -- is up to the courts.
Why isn't the BGA's Andy Shaw leading the charge with the same ferociousness against the sweetheart deals and contracts in Mayor Daley's administration?
Slamming Cicero where controversies are more colorful is easy. Slamming Mayor Daley, Gov. Quinn, House Speaker Mike Madigan and all of the big power players whose actions result in far more government waste takes the kind of guts that the BGA needs badly.
And how about a little more chutzpah from my friend Paul Green, too?
This sordid pension fund investment is exactly the kind of scandal that should get every member of the pension boards fired, and Mayor Daley should not be given a pass.
(Ray Hanania is a political columnist for the Southwest News-Herald newspaper and the host of Radio Chicagoland broadcast every morning on WJJG 1530 AM Radio. He can be reached at www.RadioChicagoland.com)
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