July 28, 2011; Source: Crain’s Chicago Business | Back in May, Rahm Emmanuel replaced Richard Daley as mayor of Chicago. In a startling coincidence, just weeks later a Chicago charity chaired by Daley’s wife Maggie created two brand-new positions and filled them with two top Daley administration officials. What a lucky break for those two newly-available workers.
The organization, After School Matters (ASM), already had an executive director. But he was shunted off into a lesser post to make way for Daley’s former chief of staff Ray Orozco, who was given the title of CEO. Daley’s former acting commissioner for the Department of Cultural Affairs, Katherine LaMantia, also ended up at ASM in the newly-created position of CFO (the title—and fate—of the person who had been managing ASM’s finances is unclear).
After Greg Hinz of Crain’s Chicago Business started asking questions about the hires, ASM released a statement larded with management-speak: Orozco and LaMantia were needed to “support our continuing quality-improvement efforts” and “guide the alignment of resources,” plus they had experience in “organizational structuring” and “implementing cost-effective strategies.”
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According to Hinz, ASM has long been known as the “unofficial city hall charity.” In addition to having a board chair who was married to the mayor, ASM pays no rent to occupy a city-owned building and takes in millions of dollars a year in city funding. The contract for the most recent round of funding was signed just four days before Daley left office, preventing the newly-elected Emmanuel from touching it for at least a year, even as he tries to close a $635 million budget deficit.
These kinds of “sweetheart deals” are all too common between the political and the nonprofit spheres, and they further belie the fairness of granting/contracting practices. We wonder how this organization will fare under Emmanuel.—Ruth McCambridge