Victory at Bridgeport Homes

by Mary C. Piemonte Editor-in-Chief

For years, the resident leaders of the South Side CHA Bridgeport Homes public housing complex said that Legum and Norman, the private property management firm for the public housing site, were poor managers.

The resident representatives at the complex often reported to the CHA officials the concerns and problems they were experiencing with the management company. Residents’ complaints range from long-standing work orders that were not addressed, to poor roofing work done in a rows of units housing seniors during the winter, to allegations of mismanagement of public funds by former property managers of the company, to one manager’s alleged violation of federal rules by granting a prison inmate permission to live with his sister at the CHA site currently under rehabilitation. Because of the residents’ continued complaints about the private property management company, Legum and Norman, a Virginia based company, also came under scrutiny for their campaign donations. Legum and Norman’s only business interests in Illinois seem to be in Chicago and the company made their only political donations in Illinois to the 17th Ward Democratic Organization, where there is no public housing or redevelopment activity. “A Questionable Connection,” an investigation done by Residents’ Journal in collaboration with the Better Government Association and published in the last issue, detailed an analysis of the Illinois State Campaign Contribution Disclosure Forms and CHA contract agreements which showed that Legum and Norman gave before and after receiving contracts from the CHA. But they made no campaign donations to any other wards since working in Chicago. The 17th Ward is currently home to CHA CEO Terry Peterson, who was also the former alderman of the ward. Current 17th Ward Alderman Latasha Thomas confirmed in “A Questionable Connection” that Peterson remains actively involved in 17th Ward affairs.

In response to the resident representatives’ complaints, Legum and Norman Vice President Price was quoted in “A Questionable Connection” as saying: “Bridgeport complains about everything. I can turn myself blue in the face and they’ll still be complaining. That’s the nature of the beast.”

Price’s comments outraged the area resident representatives. In a personal interview with RJ at the LAC office at the public housing site in April 2005, Sherry Guzman, area president of Bridgeport Homes, and area vice president Emily Cano said they were offended by the comments made by Price, and wanted to rebut Price comments in RJ’s follow up article. The two said they would also take their complaints against him to CHA officials.

RJ asked CHA what they intended to do about the Legum and Norman vice president’s remarks about the residents. In an emailed response, CHA officials wrote on April 21, “It is always the CHA’s hope that property management firms will treat residents with the same respect and dignity any of us would want and deserve. We take very seriously the belief that all of our efforts should be geared toward offering families an improved quality of life – and this includes issues related to property management. Any reports that residents have not been treated accordingly, we will look into.”

The next month, Guzman called RJ and said she wanted to retract her rebuttal of Price’s remarks. She said that the president of Legum and Norman came out to meet with her and other residents the previous week. The president addressed their concerns and apologized to them directly on behalf of Price.

“The reason why I’m calling is because the president of the company came out and he apologized for what Mr. Price said,” Guzman said.

“[Dwaine] Bailey and the Asset Manager brought him to my house. Several times he apologized. He said he was appalled of what Mr. Price said,” Guzman said cheerfully.

After a Tenant Services meeting in January this year, Sherry Guzman, area president of Bridgeport Homes, and a few other residents of the public housing development met with CHA and the property management officials to discuss some issues that needed resolving.

Guzman didn’t provide Residents’ Journal with specific details of the residents’ concerns with the management company during a phone interview in mid-February. She said she talked to CHA about “different stuff that we had to resolve.” Guzman added that the issues were being resolved and that she was satisfied about how things are going with Legum and Norman at the public housing site.

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Categories: Investigative Reporting Uncategorized

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