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Union gets little support for call to rebid O'Hare contract

by Carrie Eidson
Jan 16, 2013

The union representing O’Hare’s janitors was gaining little traction a day after its renewed demand for a review of the airport’s maintenance contract.

Service Employees International Union Local 1 is calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to rebid the janitorial contract for O’Hare International Airport after the Chicago Sun-Times reported the current bid holder did not inform the city that he had sold half his company, in violation of the city's disclosure requirements.

Laura Garza, secretary treasurer of SEIU Local 1, said that as of Wednesday the mayor’s office has not responded to the union’s request.

Richard Simon, president and CEO of United Maintenance Inc., failed to disclose that he had sold 50 percent of his company to Invision Capital I LP during the bidding process for the O'Hare contract. The sale took place on Dec. 9, 2011, though the company's ownership disclosure form was not updated until Dec. 21, 2012, according to the Sun-Times report.

"Why would they wait over a year to disclose this information to the city?" Garza said. "Something doesn’t sound right here. Something seems real fishy."

Garza said the union believes United Maintenance violated the city’s bidding rules and that the mayor's unwillingness to invalidate the contract is evidence of special treatment and a conflict of interest.

The mayor’s office did not respond to request for comment, but said in a statement to the Sun-Times on Tuesday that it considers Simon’s failure to update the company's ownership disclosure an oversight and that the union’s demand was part of a "campaign to smear the mayor."

Garza said the union had asked Chicago Inspector General Joseph M. Ferguson to look into the bid last fall and was renewing that request in light of the new information revealed in the Sun-Times article.

John David, a spokesman for the city Inspector General's office, said the office is prohibited from discussing any current or possible investigations.

The union also is asking the Cook County State’s Attorney to look into the contract. A woman who answered the phone at the state’s attorney’s office said it was a city matter and hung up.

United Maintenance Inc. was awarded the $99 million five-year contract with O’Hare last October. The company incurred union ire after more than 300 janitorial employees were laid off less than two weeks before Christmas.

United also lowered hourly wages to $11.90, down from those of the previous bid holder, which ranged from $12.05 to $15.45 an hour, depending on seniority.

Other media have reported that United Maintenance may have ties to organized crime. Simon's previous business partner, William Daddano Jr., was described as a member of organized crime by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in 2004. Paul Fosco, a vice president at United Service Companies, United Maintenance’s parent company, was convicted of racketeering in 1987. Ben Stein, United Maintenance's founder who named Simon the head of the company upon his death in 1996, was also believed to have had business ties with organized crime.