A Questionable Connection Update

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Terry Peterson was the head of the Chicago Housing Authority until earlier this year. Now he is the manager of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s campaign for reelection.

But in the months preceding Peterson’s departure from the helm of the CHA, a ward organization closely linked to him saw a sharp drop in contributions.

The 17th Ward Democratic Organization took in just $12,000 in itemized contributions in the first six months of 2006, according to records filed with the Illinois Board of Election Commissioners.

That was far less than any other comparable period since the 17th Ward Organization was reconstituted. Contributions to the 17th Ward began a sharp decline after Residents’ Journal and the Better Government Association published the results of an 8-month investigation into the connections between the ward organization and contractors to the Chicago Housing Authority.

Peterson was alderman of the 17th Ward from 1997 to May 2000, when he stepped down to become head of the CHA.

In an Aug. 30 press conference with Mayor Richard Daley and CHA Board Chairman Sharon Gist Gilliam, Peterson announced that he would resign from the CHA by the end of September after six years on the job. Peterson thanked Daley, Gist Gilliam and Michael Pfleger, a Catholic priest based on the South Side whom Peterson considers his mentor.

Daley said that Gist Gilliam would stand in as CEO until a permanent replacement could be found.

“We’re building lives and building communities and, as I say it, were building souls,” Daley told the City Hall press corps.

Peterson became involved with Daley’s campaign shortly after he left CHA and currently is the Mayor’s campaign manager, according to campaign officials.

In 2004, Residents’ Journal and BGA launched an 8-month investigation of possible connections between CHA contractors and the 17th Ward Democratic Organization. Contributions to the 17th Ward from CHA contractors inspired the investigation because the 17th Ward contains no public housing developments, redevelopment sites or other CHA initiatives.

The investigation, published in April 2005 as “A Questionable Connection,” found 63 companies who donated to the 17th Ward Democratic Organization and also received contracts from CHA.

From 2001 to 2004, the 17th Ward Democratic Organization took in a total of $673,333.05, of which $225,318.32 – 33.46 percent – came from contractors at the CHA.

Many companies gave to the 17th Ward Democratic Organization just before or just after they were awarded contracts from the CHA.

One firm gave a $2,500 donation to the 17th Ward Democratic Organization the same day the firm was awarded a construction contract worth $3,292,095.

In March 2006, Residents’ Journal published “A Questionable Connection 2.“

In that report, the investigative team found that over 60 percent of the itemized individual contributions to the 17th Ward Democratic Organization in 2005 came from CHA contractors and related sources, according to a comparison of records filed with the Illinois Board of Election Commissioners with lists of CHA contractors.

“A Questionable Connection 2” also found that the overall total of contributions to the 17th Ward Democratic Organization dropped dramatically in 2005 as compared with previous years after three straight years of increasing totals.

In the second one-half of 2005, for example, the ward organization took in $35,550. In the same period of 2004, the 17th Ward received $160,383.33. In the same period of 2003, the ward organization received $140,830.

For this report, the Residents’ Journal/BGA investigative team analyzed the latest available campaign contributions to the 17th Ward, for the period from Jan. 1, 2006 to June 30, 2006. Of the $12,000 given to the 17th Ward in that time, only $450 came from a corporate donor, Camp Dresser and McKee (CDM), a consulting, engineering and operations firm. CDM official Robin Black gave CDM another $500.

Both the company’s contributions and Black’s donation were made on the same date, March 14, 2006. CDM received a contract from CHA worth $750,000 on Jan. 1, 2006.

On Dec. 7, 2006, CDM issued a press release stating that the CHA selected CDM to “guide the removal of environmental impairments from the grounds” of the Cabrini-Green development and perform other duties.

Neither Robin Black nor other CDM officials returned calls from Residents’ Journal asking if there was a connection between the award of the contract and the donations to the 17th Ward.

At least two of the individual contributors to the 17th Ward in the first six months of 2006 were CHA employees. Adrienne Minley, chief of staff at CHA, donated $600 to the 17th Ward Democratic Organization on March 14. David Moore, listed as a manager at CHA, gave $1,000 to the 17th Ward Democratic Organization on the same day.

In response to a Residents’ Journal inquiry, CHA spokesperson Derrick Hill declined to comment on whether there was a connection between the CHA officials’ employment and their contributions to the 17th Ward Democratic Organization.

Other contributors to the 17th Ward included individuals with long connections to the CHA.

John Roberson gave $1,000 to the 17th ward on March 14. Roberson is a former CHA employee who later became commissioner of buildings, commissioner of sewers and commissioner of aviation.

Currently, Roberson is executive director of the Target Group, which is listed by CHA as a “partner” on the agency’s web site.

Roberson did not return Residents’ Journal’s calls before press deadline.

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Categories: Investigative Reporting