Friday, June 12, 2009

Pension scandal exposes incompetent leadership in Chicago

When asked how his nephew managed to egt $68 million in city pension fund investments for a realty firm he created only three years ago, Mayor Daley responded:

"While many of you have speculated that somehow I knew about Bob's business relationship, I did not. When I found out, I made it very clear it was not a good decision and he should end the business relationship immediately. But as an adult, Bob made a different decision, which leads to a very painful string of news stories that have indeed caused tension in my family."

At issue is Robert Vanecko, Daley's nephew, and his company DV Urban Realty, which he founded with Allison Davis, a former partner of convicted influence peddler Antoin "Tony" Rezko. Three of the city's pension funds voted to invest the money in the firm right after it was formed. Three top officials of the City of Chicago were involved in that decision on a board controlled by Mayor Daley.

Those officials include City Comptroller Steve Lux (who later directed that the tapes of the proceedings involving the Vanecko sweetheart deal be destroyed), top aid Judith Rice and Daley's then-chief financial officer Dana Levenson. Rice has since gone on to work at the Harris Bank, which might explain why that bank has suddenly taken a nose-dive when it comes to customer services and accountability.

This all raises some real issues about Daley's ability to be mayor. The "I didn't know" excuse sounds stupid. Didn't know? You're the mayor. We're not talking about a $50 loan from one employee to another. We are talking about responsibility for the movement of $68 million in City Pension fund investments that are the treasure and life savings of many employees including the Chicago police.

You didn't know? What kind of leader are you that when it comes to a sweetheart deal investment with such city fund, you don't know?

And why should Rice be left off the hook? Why isn't she being dragged before a grand jury to inquire about her sanity and decisionmaking process? Why is she still working at Harris Bank where hundreds of millions of dollars are managed and the money of many people int he public are at stake?

Is that the kind of incompetence that we taxpayers and citizens are forced to suffer?

I am outraged at Mayor Daley that he let this happen and he wasn't even aware of what the pension funds do with the money. It's just ignorant to believe a mayor would not be told by the pension board "guradians" that they are giving a $68 million investment to a company that had just been founded by a high profile relative of the mayor. And, when Daley found out, all he could do was lecture Vanecko that he shouldn't have done it?

Pathetic. Bad leadership all around. But it touches me directly and many others that Harris Bank put Rice on their payroll after such a stupid move and you have to wonder about Harris Bank and their leadership, too. Why would I continue to put my money in a bank like that with an officer who just ran from a stupid investment in a realty firm with how much experience? And owned by a relative of Mayor Daley?

Clout? Sweetheart deal? Maybe a real scandal that deserves to be explored further.

Clearly the only competent person in this sordid tale is the Inspector General David Hoffman who demanded records when he learned of the outrageous conduct by the pension board members. And the response of the penison boards was to refuse to give Mr. Hoffman those records. So Mr. Hoffman went to the U.S. Attorney and together they issued a federal subpoena for the records which hopefully scared the be-Jesus out of every one of those lousy, pathetic pension board members.

They should all be fired. If they had any decency every one of those pension board members who apologize to the public and resign.

But we know that responsible government leadership and responsible conduct are neither the trade of Mayor Daley nor of his lackeys who serve under him for very generous compensation.

Pathetic. Outrageous. FURIOUS!

-- Ray Hanania

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