Wednesday, February 26, 2014


In a new twist to the orchestrated efforts to conceal information from the public regarding daily operations at Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, MPEA employees are doing a great Colonel Klink impersonation..."I know nothing, NOTHING!"

Two of our latest FOIAs have resulted in MPEA's response that they have no records to provide.

The first requested all written documentation (email, memos, etc.) between Juan Ochoa, CEO, and his appointee to Acting Chief of Staff, Carlos Ponce during Ponce's 9 month's employment in 2009 and 2010. 

Here is the response...."we have no documentation responsive to your FOIA"
That's right. Not one piece of paper! NOTHING. NADA.

We had previously issued a FOIA for a copy of the Process Plan work product that was to be produced for Ochoa by Ponce as a consultant in 2008 that also has miraculously disappeared. Ponce was paid $28,000 by MPEA for this work that he then parlayed into an employment agreement. Ponce then negotiated a Separation Agreement that resulted in an additional payment to him of $34,000 (as previously reported). 

Again, there is no written documentation related to Ochoa's signing off on this abuse of taxpayer funds.

The 2nd FOIA related to documentation surrounding the crafting of the MPEA Interim Board Report issued April, 2010. "Somebody Who Somebody Sent" authored a 145 page fully wordsmithed and polished masterpiece in under 20 days while 2 meetings chaired by John Gates and guided by Bruce Rauner went through the motions of information intake regarding restructuring MPEA and Navy Pier.

Again, NOT ONE PIECE OF notes, minutes, emails. NOTHING. NADA.

We urge the NSA to point their attention to MPEA to conserve records callously destroyed so that taxpayers will have documentation of written communications and phone conversations to determine how a select few can continue to increase the MPEA annual deficit now at $1.1 Billion with impunity!

Patronage workers need to be accountable to taxpayers to protect assets and not channel money to folks seeking personal gain from sole source wired contracts and employment arrangements.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

David Wilhelm Cooking Show on TRS channel

Wilhelm & Hopewell Ventures have created this yummy recipe especially for the Illinois Teachers who contribute to the Teacher Retirement System:

1. Start with a 2003 contract wired by convicted felons Stuart Levine and Joe Cari to obtain a $10 Million commitment of TRS funds for private investment
2. Claim to use these funds for investment in economically disadvantaged companies located in Southern Illinois but instead invests in businesses controlled by your cronies. 
Hopewell proudly posts its portfolio on its website
There are no companies headquartered in Southern Illinois!
3. Pretend to create jobs in Illinois
4. By contract, insure that TRS does not know the ultimate destination of the investment funds.
5. By contract, insure that TRS cannot cancel any investment for poor performance or loss
6. Take annual management fees that total $3.5 Million despite the fact that these investments never made $1 for TRS.
7. Ultimately lose 32% of the $10 Million investment and still control the remaining $2.4 Million (current value as of 9/30/2013)

Here is a recap of the losses just obtained via FOIA from the TRS

Wilhelm isn't clever enough to cook the books but is adept at making teacher's funds go up in smoke (while raking cash into his own pockets)!

It is curious that the TRS board and management team refuse to terminate this private investment with Hopewell. Perhaps they are simply waiting until there are ZERO funds left.

This is a breach of trust & fiduciary by those folks responsible to safeguard the assets of the fund and contributions of Illinois teachers.

We demand the resignation of Dick Ingram, the TRS Executive Director and the TRS Board Members for gross mismanagement of the fund.

We call upon the Illinois Attorney General & US Attorney to investigate the abuse of these taxpayer funds for personal gain by Wilhelm and his partners.

Friday, February 21, 2014


The world was created in six days.

April 6 to April 21 is only 16 days (12 work days if you deduct the weekend).

My feverish efforts under pressure to write a 20 page term paper for college the night before it was due pales by comparison.

Yet, the MPEA Interim Board performed the second greatest miracle in the history of Man.

Following up on our investigation related to the MPEA Interim Board Report authored by John Gates and Bruce Rauner and issued on April 29, 2010 we issued this FOIA to MPEA on Feb. 13, 2014:

"Please provide in electronic PDF file format all documentation related to the Interim MPEA Board Report to the Illinois General Assembly published April, 2010 (see attached). This request includes all emails, internal correspondence between interim Board members and MPEA employees, meeting notes, communications with City of Chicago or State of Illinois elected officials or employees." 

The response was emailed to us on Feb. 20, 2014
"In response to your Freedom of Information request to MPEA (below), please find the attached Board meeting agendas.  MPEA does not have any additional records in our custody or possession related to your request."

We find this response to be very curious. We reviewed the Interim Report that runs 145 pages in length.

Here is the Table of Contents (Pg. 5)



Section 1 Executive Summary

Section 2 Introduction

Section 3 Report to the Joint Committee

Findings and Recommendations
Section 4 Debt Restructuring
Section 5 Focus One & Food Service
Alternative Operating Strategies
Section 6 Competitiveness/Labor
Section 7 Sales & Marketing
Section 8 Governance
Section 9 “Legislative Analysis Report” by C.H. Johnson Consulting, Inc.
Includes an examination of alternative sales and marketing labor models.
Section 10` “McCormick Place Analysis Report” by Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP
Includes an examination and analysis of benchmarking marking Chicago as a
convention and show destination

Here are excerpts from the Report:

"As you know, the General Assembly established the Interim Board to conduct a comprehensive review and analysis of McCormick Place operations and report findings and recommendations to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority. That phase of our work has concluded and the Board hereby submits its report to the Joint Committee today."

"The findings and the recommendations of the board were informed by independent analyses by PricewaterhouseCooper LLP and C.H. Johnson Consulting, Inc., bench marking our performance and operations against competing venues and providing an in-depth review of our financial structure. The findings and recommendations of the Interim Board comports with their analysis and counsel." (Pg. 6)

"The Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority (MPEA) Interim Board of Directors, created in the wake of the McCormick Place crisis, was charged by the Legislature's leadership to present recommendations for corrective action by April 30th of this year. The Board first convened on April 6th and immediately embarked on a concentrated analysis of the key issues surrounding the controversy." (Pg. 9)

"The findings and the recommendations of the board were informed by independent analyses by PricewaterhouseCooper LLP and C.H. Johnson Consulting, Inc., bench marking our performance and operations against competing venues and providing an in-depth review of our financial structure. The findings and recommendations of the Interim Board comports with their analysis and counsel." (Pg. 6)

"The Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority (MPEA) Interim Board of Directors, created in the wake of the McCormick Place crisis, was charged by the Legislature's leadership to present recommendations for corrective action by April 30th of this year. The Board first convened on April 6th
and immediately embarked on a concentratedanalysis of the key issues surrounding the controversy."

"It should be recognized that the Board conducted nearly all aspects of its review in open session, accessible to the press and public. In the spirit of transparency, it was the Board's belief that the public should "It should be recognized that the Board conducted nearly all aspects of its review in open session, accessible to the press and public. In the spirit of transparency, it was the Board's belief that the public should hear what it would hear, the questions asked, and its deliberations to
find solutions." (Pg. 9)
Yet, according to the MPEA FOIA response, there are no minutes, no drafts of the 145 Report, no emails between board members or employees of MPEA, no communications with either PricewaterhouseCooper or C.H. Johnson Consulting.
Nothing, NADA, Zippo!Page 15 gives a synopsis of the timeline for action:
"With so much at stake, on 1-11-10 Governor Quinn and Mayor Daley announced support for legislation to reform labor rules and contractor practices at McCormick Place. MPEA's Chairman John S. Gates, Jr. declared, "Convention business in Chicago is at a crossroads...We can do what it takes, pass this legislation to modernize our business model, create new jobs and growth, or we can continue to operate at a competitive disadvantage and watch the steady decline of our state's most important economic resources."
Rather than consider the bill, the Legislature decided to conduct its own inquiry into MPEA’s difficulties. It began by replacing the existing thirteen member MPEA Board and creating a seven member Interim board. Legislative leaders then instructed the Interim board. Legislative leaders then instructed the Interim Board to submit its recommendations to the Legislature.
It further created a 16-member Joint House and Senate panel to examine issues surrounding MPEA and make its own recommendations to the General Assembly by April 30, 2010. House leadership expressed confidence that a McCormick Place reform measure could be passed before adjournment on May 7, 2010. 
The committee held hearings in early April (2010) and heard from all sides of the issue."
Pg. 16 their own words 
As previously noted, the MPEA Interim Board first convened on April 6, 2010. Then it embarked on a high speed schedule of meetings to prepare recommendations to submit to the Joint Committee on MPEA.
It adopted a set of operating principals to guide their deliberations and the formulation of its recommendations. Those recommendations were submitted to the Joint Committee on the 21st of April, 2010."

Yep. Logic and analysis of the 145 page Interim Report indicate that Interim Board was being less than truthful in disclosing what was actually happening.




The application process for Rauner to get $50 Million from the TRS took longer.

This is exactly the pattern employed by Mayors Richie Daley and Rahm Emmanuel with the CPS hearings over school closings. On the surface it appears to be fair and unbiased but the results are already phoned it.

All part of the conspiracy to move $100 Million in taxpayer assets and $1 Billion in anticipated revenue from Navy Pier to a bogus non profit, Navy Pier Inc. run by former patronage employees placed at MPEA by Daley and Madigan, who are the root cause of the legislature removing the MPEA board in the first place.

A complete circle jerk when they thought nobody was looking!

More to come.....


















Friday, February 14, 2014


Understanding The Freedom of Information
Act (5 ILCS 140) and the Open Meetings Act (5 ILCS 120) and citizen rights.

Here is a message from Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General in the publication "A GUIDE TO THE ILLINOIS FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT" (revised 2010).

"Open and honest government is the cornerstone of American democracy, and it can only be achieved through the free exchange of information between the government and its citizens.

The Office of the Attorney General is committed to supporting and enforcing the principle of open government embodied in two important laws: The Freedom of Information
Act (5 ILCS 140) and the Open Meetings Act (5 ILCS 120).
Both are critical tools in shining light on government action, and ultimately strengthening our democracy.

As Attorney General, I feel so strongly about the role these Acts play in our government, that, for the first time in Illinois history, I have established the position of Public Access
Counselor within my office.
The Public Access Counselor will take an active role in assuring
that public bodies understand the requirements of the laws and conduct their business openly and that the public has access to the governmental information to which they are entitled.
The Freedom of Information Act is a pro-disclosure law embedded in the fundamental principle that citizens have a right to access public documents of their government, while
balancing the government necessary ability to conduct the business of the people.

The purpose of this Guide to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act is intended to be a helpful contribution in ensuring open and honest government in every corner of Illinois.
The Office of the Attorney General is pleased to offer this revised guide to foster accountability of government to its citizens, which is the bedrock of a democratic society."
In our experience, we have issued hundreds of FOIA requests to obtain information that should be readily available to the public. In most instances, the FOIA officers have properly and willingly complied in the performance of their mandate as custodians of public records.
However, we have encountered resistance to obtaining information by a select few municipal workers who deliberately impede the process by assertions of attorney-client privilege and trade secrets.
The blatant abuse of privilege is in cases where taxpayer funds are being used to compensate outside attorneys (who are typically connected insiders). The most egregious act of concealment is the "Independent Internal Investigation" that is anything but independent. The definition of independent is clear - not subject to the control or influence of the entity under investigation. Yet, it is typically the General Counsel of the municipal entity that hires the "Independent" Counsel and who signs off on payment of the legal fees.
This is now the case with the Rutherford internal investigation raised in the Illinois Governor's 2014 campaign. It has also been the case in our FOIA's at MPEA, METRA, TRS and other agencies that spend taxpayer funds with impunity and outside the scope of accountability.
This is exactly the accountability called for by Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
We call upon the Illinois Legislature and the IL AG's office to examine the scope of veil of privilege and trade secrets to insure there is no abuse of taxpayer funds or the abuse of power by patronage municipal workers zealous to protect their sandbox.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ain't Payback a Bitch?

It would be ironic if the Illinois teacher's union currently allocating funds for anti Bruce Rauner TV ads forced the TRS to terminate the $50 Million Private Investment placed with GTCR.

This is certainly a move that would be applauded by the rank & file.

Remember that GTCR earns management fees that are not linked to the placement's performance...all for personal gain by the Principals.

In addition, the investment lost 7.9% in 2012.

If elected Governor, Rauner has pledged to cut teacher's pensions.

Bruce, be careful what you wish for.....

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Here is how Carlos Ponce "made off" with a hefty consulting agreement and then parlayed that into a job as Acting Chief of Staff at MPEA.

Here is the "Ponce Scheme" cooked up between Ponce and Juan Ochoa, political hack appointed by Governor Rod Blagojevich. 

It is interesting to note that their personal relationship started back when both were associated with the Illinois Hispanic Chamber where Ponce mentored Ochoa.

On January 8, 2008 Carlos Ponce, President of Resonance Management & Technology Solutions, Inc. entered into a sole source/No Bid contract with MPEA for "Business Improvement Plan Project" (R2007-48). 
The process plan & deliverables are detailed on Page 2 of the Agreement

The Agreement calls for the issuance of a Report. 
Under 2 FOIA requests, MPEA failed to produce a copy of the Report and advised they do not have a copy. If Ponce has a copy (that he was compensated for), we request that he make it available to MPEA so that they can properly comply with the FOIA.

The fee schedule as set forth in Exhibit A under Article 3 Compensation was not produced by MPEA under FOIA.
However, MPEA did provide the payouts to Ponce.

Note that the first payment of $9,555 was paid on September 30, 2007, fully 3 months prior to the execution of the Agreement. The total payment was exactly $28,421.25. MPEA failed to produce the detailed invoices from Resonance Management under this FOIA request.

Ponce executed the Agreement on 2/19/2008 and it was countersigned by Juan Ochoa, CEO MPEA on 3/19/2008.

Who authorized payment to Ponce months prior to the execution of a binding contract with MPEA?

Here is where the story gets even more interesting....

In 2009, the Chicago Press launched a series of investigative reporting related to improprieties at MPEA under Ochoa's leadership. Corruption Busters has previously reported on the outcome...the Illinois legislature and Governor Quinn forcibly removed the MPEA Board for mismanagement of the Authority.

Under siege, in 2009 Ochoa strikes a deal with Ponce to become Acting Chief of Staff, approved by the sitting board. Ponce was employed from 9/3/2009 to 7/6/2010 at an hourly rate of $180.

Ponce is an at-will employee with no personal service contract. Here is Ponce's compensation during his short tenure until Ochoa's forced resignation.

Our examination of Ponce's total compensation of $152,270.50 (over 9 months) revealed a number that made us curious. So we issued a FOIA regarding the July 10, 2010 payment in the amount of $34,017.77.

Page 2 (b) Additional Lump Sum Payment is very interesting..

This sentence resonates loud and clear...

"Employee understands that, but for Employee's promises in this Agreement, Employee would NOT BE ELIGIBLE to receive the Separation Payment from the Authority."

Apparently, Ponce negotiated a Separation Agreement with himself that he executed on June 30, 2010 (simply rubber stamped & countersigned by Jeanine Gillen who was Sr. Director of Human Resources forced to resign via "early retirement" 6/30/2010). These dates are no coincidence. (check out the signature page below...Ponce executed the Agreement as Chief of Staff and the "Employee" line is signed by Gillen! 

This is very sloppy paperwork on a legally binding contract. It is also interesting to note that the Agreement was not witnessed by a member of the MPEA legal staff.

Ponce executed this Agreement for personal gain at taxpayer expense as a parting gift for serving as Ochoa's shield for a mere Nine Months!

So, Ponce engaged in a "Ponce Scheme" and made off with the cash.

We call upon the United States Attorney to investigate the conspiracy by Ochoa and Ponce to obtain funds for personal gain and the abuse of the public trust.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New TV ad attacks Rauner, ties him to Stu Levine
Tuesday, Feb 11, 2014 

Reposted from

* Labor unions funding a new campaign committee, Illinois Freedom PAC, have unveiled their first TV ad. Subscribers know more about the buy’s cost and reach and flight length, but this is basically a statewide buy and backed by big bucks. Rate it

* Script…
Bruce Rauner says he’d shake up Springfield.
News reports tie Rauner to Stu Levine. Remember him? He’s the Blagojevich crony now in prison.
Levin testified that a company financed by Rauner’s firm gave him $1 million to get state contracts by “whatever means,” including payoffs.
At the same time, Levine voted to help Rauner’s firm get $50 million in state pension funds.
Trust Bruce Rauner to shake up Springfield? He’s tied to people who shook it down.
check out the complete story by clicking on the link above.

There is much more to this story.... 

Joe Cari (convicted felon), former Chair of the Democratic National Committee was the link between Stuart Levine (convicted felon) TRS Board Member, Bruce Rauner and David Wilhelm (former Chair DNC).

In 2003, just after Blagojevich was elected Illinois Governor, there were numerous pay-to-play private investments rammed through the TRS board (all unanimous votes) engineered by Levine to politically connected firms who found an angle to legally grab "Management Fees" that were not tied to the performance of the investments. These results in personal gain at the expense of the funds.

The TRS Investment Agreements negotiated with GTCR (Rauner - $50 Million), Healthpoint Partners (Cari - $35 Million) and Wilhelm (Hopewell Ventures $10 Million) are protected from FOIA specifically by the Illinois Legislature as "trade secrets". 

These TRS agreements preclude disclosure by the private investment firm of the destination of the investment or individual performance. In fact, the TRS cannot direct the private investor to pull the investments that are performing poorly. No rational investor would give complete control of their assets to a manager that loses investment monies.

GTCR lost 17.5% in 2009 and 7.9% in 2012.
Healthpoint lost 20.10% in 2009, 0.7% in 2010, 11% in 2011 and 9.9% in 2012.
Hopewell has lost money from 2003 to 2012.

Wilhelm (Hopewell) pulled $3 Million in Management Fees out of a $10 Million initial investment currently worth just over $4 Million! At this rate, the TRS will lose the complete $10 Million in the next few years.

The TRS refuses to terminate these shady investments despite requests by CorruptionBusters since 2011 to do so.

Illinois faces a substantial deficit to fund the pensions in accordance with negotiated labor agreements. Wired investment deals to politically connected individuals severely impacts the TRS' ability to make payments into the future.

We call for an investigation by the United States Attorney to recover TRS funds that have become a pot of gold for these cronies.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Conspiracy by MPEA employees and board members results in stealing $100 Million of taxpayer assets and diverting $1 Billion in revenue to Navy Pier Inc., a bogus non-profit run by former patronage workers employed at MPEA.

Blagoyevich is sitting in jail for 14 years and didn't really get much money for personal gain.

Reboot Illinois claims that the $53 Million stolen by former municipal worker, Rita Crundwell in Dixon Illinois is the largest embezzlement in US History. Crundwell received a 20 year prison sentence. The City of Dixon filed a lawsuit against the City auditors to recover most of the funds.  

Here is a link to the full story:

There is currently an investigation (based upon a complaint filed by Corruption Busters) by Valarie Hays (former US Attorney) at Schiff Hardin as MPEA Ethics Enforcer to investigate improprieties that have resulted in waste of taxpayer funds and a revolving door contract between Jim Reilly (former Trustee, now CEO of MPEA) and Renee Benjamin for consulting services at $180 per hour. 

Benjamin "retired" as General Counsel on Dec. 31, 2010 and immediately began consulting on Jan. 1, 2011, while collecting her $8,000 per month retirement. In fact, Benjamin never moved from her desk, phone, email or computer. 

To boot, she composed and negotiated her consulting agreement for personal gain while still employed and executed the Agreement with Reilly on November 15, 2010!

The only problem was, Benjamin began invoicing MPEA in December, 2010, fully outside the scope of her consulting agreement and prior to her termination as General Counsel.

Read carefully the itemized billing below for 12/18/2010 researching the applicability of FOIA and OMA for Navy Pier NFP (Not for Profit) directly after hiring Shefsky & Froelich on 12/1/2010 to provide $17,000 of research on this topic. (see previously published articles below in this blog).

Also note that the consulting work provided by Benjamin is not within the scope of services under her consulting agreement (listed above)

Of course, this "internal, independent" investigation by Hays as Ethics Enforcer is being funded by taxpayer dollars since Schiff Hardin was hired by the MPEA General Counsel. This is certainly not independent by any definition.

So, in Illinois, if stealing merely $53 Million gets a 20 year prison term, what is the punishment for stealing $1.1 Billion? 

Recovery of taxpayer funds can be collected from MPEA and Navy Pier Inc.'s auditors and board members, as well as from the employees who conspired to illegally obtain these funds.

We encourage Hays to contact her friends at the US Attorney's office to investigate the "Steal of the Century".

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


In Illinois, the American dream is still attainable, albeit on the backs of the taxpayers.

Governor Patrick Quinn supports the Illinois Jobs program. Mayor Rahm Emanuel takes every opportunity to attract business to Chicago. Mike Madigan spends his nights setting strategy for protecting patronage jobs.

How often do Illinois citizens see 100% cooperation between these municipal entities?

Here is a blueprint on how to setup a company without any capitalization, equity, understanding of the definition of a Not-For-Profit 501C3 entity, business plan or successful track record managing a municipal venue owned by taxpayer dollars and parlaying that into an overnight $43 Million annual revenue producing enterprise. 

Don't forget the sole source $1 Per Year (over an initial 25 Year term) Navy Pier Management Contract with 4-20 year renewals already in the bag with no negotiation or public disclosure! 

Anticipated Revenue for 25 years is over $1 Billion.

America, what a country!

Bill Gates paid $50,000 for DOS and it took a bit to get to $1 Billion in revenue.....

So the story continues....

On January 4, 2011 Navy Pier Inc. was incorporated.

Show us the money. Who actually incorporated this entity? Where is a copy of the check for the incorporation?

Our investigation has uncovered some very interesting facts.

Marilynn Kelly Gardner was General Manager of Navy Pier (earning $168,000 per year). Dan Blondin was Senior Attorney (earning $110,000). Neither had experience setting up or managing a Not-For-Profit 501C3 entity.

Here is the luck of the Irish!

Apparently, one day over a couple of drinks at Navy Pier, they agreed to become entrepreneurs with the encouragement and financial backing of a public entity, Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority. Blondin's boss, Renee C. Benjamin, General Counsel, MPEA, even hired the politically connected law firm, Shefsky & Froelich in December, 2010 to investigate whether a non-profit would be subject to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meetings Act (OMA). It took 7 attorneys and fees of $17,000 to make that determination. Of course, as MPEA FOIA Officer, Benjamin could have simply called Lisa Madigan's Illinois Attorney General's Office to get the answer free of charge. Or, she could have read Page 9 of the FOIA Guide published by the IL AG that specifically exempts non-profits from FOIA.

"Moreover, the Act is not applicable to private not-for-profit or business corporations even though such corporations administer programs that expend public funds or otherwise receive public funds. Hopf v. Topcorp, Inc., 170 Ill. App. 3d 85 (1st Dist. 1988), appeal after remand, 256 Ill. App. 3d 807 (1993)."

Benjamin should simply have known the answer:

One of her duties as Chief Counsel “Monitors the Authority’s compliance with the requirements of its enabling legislation, including but not limited to Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act requirements, competitive procurement, promulgation of rules and regulations, government reporting, and affirmative action.”

Of course, this is the same person who awarded patronage, sole source outside legal fees totaling $8.3 Million from 2008 to 2011 to a select group of 30 connected firms. And, it wasn't her money...she was just sitting back waiting to collect her $8,000 a month pension starting in 2011. 

Next up...Madigan appointed political hack MPEA Trustee, Jim Reilly, circumvents the open bid process and awards Navy Pier Inc. a $1.00  25-Year Lease Agreement.

There is bit of good news. Navy Pier Inc. prepaid the 25 year Lease Agreement, so MPEA recorded $25 lease revenue on its books!

Monday, February 3, 2014


Claiming to be a political outsider, Bruce Rauner, candidate for Illinois Governor, was a prime mover in protecting former Navy Pier employees who had mismanaged the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority (McCormick Place and Navy Pier).


In just three years, from 2006 to 2009, MPEA's annual deficit doubled from $287.8 Million to $556.4 Million. Public scrutiny and pressure in the Chicago press, coupled with exhibitors threatening to move trade shows out of Chicago forced Madigan to take drastic steps to protect the patronage army securely entrenched at MPEA.

In an unprecedented display bi-partisan support, and in just 3 months time, the Illinois Legislature and Governor Patrick Quinn forcibly removed the MPEA board, appointed an interim board and plotted to split out the management of Navy Pier from MPEA.

Note that the Illinois Legislature is typically disjointed. Pension Reform legislation has taken years to obtain approval. Illinois' bond rating has been downgraded in the interim. Gambling expansion has not yet been embraced by the Governor.

Yet, lightning speed and a full court press moved this issue on an accelerated track.

What precipitated this drastic move to change the status quo?

For years, the only way to secure a job at MPEA was via a patronage recommendation. The Human Resources process was corrupt. The hiring process was rigged. A subjective evaluation process insured hiring the political hack over better qualified candidates. Nobody, Nobody sent ever was hired.

Back door hiring practices enabled "part time" employees to start working at MPEA in other jobs who were then moved into higher paying salaried jobs that resulted in 58 people earning over $100,000 annual salaries at taxpayer expense.

Information obtained via FOIA indicated that job titles and compensation did not follow logic. An organization chart simply could not be tabulated. But, the public, unaware of the shenanigans of the anointed few, kept funding the annual shortfall.

And who directly sponsored each and every Illinois House bill to fund MPEA? Speaker Mike Madigan.


In preparation to protect these patronage workers, on Nov. 3, 2009 MPEA hired the Urban Land Institute ("ULI") on a sole source $120,000 contract that then mushroomed to $180,000 (with an addendum to the contract dated Aug. 12, 2010). The ULI report setup a framework to create a "not for profit" entity to manage Navy Pier. 

On March 19, 2010, MPEA issued a press release welcoming new board members: John Gates and  Peter J. O'Brien (who were removed from the MPEA board), Anita M. CummingsSheila O'Grady, Andre Rice and Bruce Rauner.

The interim MPEA board was mandated by the Illinois Legislature and Governor after forcibly removed the existing 50/50 Mayor/Governor politically appointed MPEA board. Rauner was specifically slotted into this position by Mayor Daley because of his financial acumen under the guise of saving taxpayer funds and saving convention business. 

The MPEA Interim Board first met on April 6, 2010. Their recommendations were made on April 21, 2010, just fifteen days later!

Instead, the interim board members issued an Interim Board Report comprising 145 pages on April 29, 2010 that also included the participation of Juan Ochoa, Blagojevich's political hack who directly contributed to the mismanagement of the authority.

Buried on Page 24 were these innocuous words:


 FINDING: The reporting relationship between the MPEA Board and the CEO is convoluted.

Although at the present, this structure has been made to work, in the past it has led to well below

optimal leadership, decision-making, strategic thinking and execution. This could occur again in
the future.

Further, it has become evident that the business and future prospects of McCormick Place and

Navy Pier have diverged significantly. They are in fact two distinct institutions, McCormick 
Place in the convention & exhibition business; and, Navy Pier focused on the retail, tourism, and
entertainment business. The divergent character of these two institutions is not adequately served by the current governing structure.

The interim board is in the process of developing a new strategic plan for Navy Pier as a major international tourist destination for Chicago. When formulated, the interim board will likely recommend a new governance structure for Navy Pier.

Rauner actively participated in diverting $1 Billion in taxpayer assets and revenue to the former employees of Navy Pier for personal gain.

Next up, the structure of corporate governance for Navy Pier as framed by the Interim Board.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Must be the luck of the Irish. Nice to be in the Family Business....

Former MPEA employees hit a gold vein by moving to Navy Pier Inc. all at taxpayer expense. But they never actually moved. Same desk, same phone number, same email, brand new computer paid for by taxpayers; just a different company's name on their paycheck.
And, all outside the purview of FOIA and OMA. 

There is no Inspector General that oversees MPEA or Navy Pier Inc.

Pursuant to legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly in 2010, Navy Pier was formally split out from MPEA. On Jan. 4, 2011 Navy Pier Inc. was incorporated in Illinois as a not-for-profit and on June 30, 2011 the MPEA board approved spinning out NPI. 

The Speaker of the House, Mike Madigan, rammed this legislation through in three months! The Senate concurred and Governor Quinn signed the legislation in quick order.

It is interesting to note that Ethics Reform headed by Patrick Collins, former US Attorney, did not pass. Pension Reform has been a wrestling match not easily resolved and still a major issue related to the financial stability of the State of Illinois. Gambling Expansion has passed the legislature only to be vetoed by Governor Quinn.

Of course, there have been recent stories of Madigan's protection of patronage workers and this is the hidden story that has not been well publicized until now.

Ah, tis good to be Irish!

NPI was provided with a $5,000,000 interest free loan to get the family business started. Over $100 Million of taxpayer assets were shifted from MPEA to NPI. Annual revenue of $43 Million was gifted to these former MPEA employees to the detriment of taxpayers.

Does any sane person simply give away revenue and profit? Or, was there some nefarious reason to put this deal together?

The answer is direct. These political patronage workers received a two year no cut contract to "move" over to this fake non-profit, Navy Pier Inc.

Would Mayor Emmanuel or Governor Quinn willfully forfeit their 50% share of $43 Million in annual revenue? Certainly not! But they don't know what they don't know.

All in exchange for a $1.00 25 Year Lease Agreement with four 20 year renewals!

Navy Pier Inc. has received NO DONATIONS OR CONTRIBUTIONS since inception but continues to engage in running a profitable mall at 600 E. Grand.

Here is the ultimate reward for party loyalty. Each politically connected foot soldier strategically placed at MPEA have cleaned up nicely and obtained personal gain protecting the family business. 

These are the same management folks that ran up the MPEA deficit annually and should have been removed for gross mismanagement and waste of taxpayer funds. The numbers speak for themselves.

ANNUAL AUDITS OF MPEA (performed by KPMG who is fully asleep at the wheel) disclose the MPEA financial statements for the years 2006-2011 annual deficits as follows:

·         Net Deficit June 30, 2011 $833.0 Million
·         Net Deficit June 30, 2010 $696.5 Million
·         Net Deficit June 30, 2009 $556.4 Million
·         Net Deficit June 30, 2008 $408.3 Million
·         Net Deficit June 30, 2007 $309.5 Million

·         Net Deficit June 30, 2006 $287.8 Million

Since the split effective July 1, 2011, the deficit has actually increased geometrically under the regime of Jim Reilly, former Trustee, now CEO...

·         Net Deficit June 30, 2013 $1.1 Billion
·         Net Deficit June 30, 2012 $999 Million

How does a losing venture stay in business? By feeding at the public trough financed on the backs of Illinois taxpayers?

Who introduces legislation each year to cover the shortfall? You guessed it. Mike Madigan is the direct sponsor.

Contrary to logic and best practices, political hacks have effectively and deliberately been financially rewarded for screwing taxpayers.

Marilynn Gardner, Navy Pier General Manager was earning $168,000 as an employee of the State of Illinois. Daniel P. Blondin, Senior Attorney was earning $110,000. Patrick Gardner, Marilynn's husband was earning $59,610. Mike Degnan was earning $130,713.

Navy Pier Inc. is a 501C3 non-profit not subject to FOIA and OMA. Taxpayers have no checks and balances to prevent looting the public coffers.

According to the Navy Pier Inc. IRS990 filing for 2012, here are the astounding compensation numbers:
Marilynn Gardner         $ 391,493
Daniel P. Blondin           $ 284,384
Patrick Gardner             $   79,018
Mike Degnan                   $ 240,746
Steven J. Haemmerle      $ 360,445

(Haemmerle was employed by MPEA just prior to the split and NPI has been paid by MPEA for a portion of his services on behalf of MPEA while employed by NPI)

Former Governor Rod Blagojevich is serving a 14 year sentence and didn't steal anything close to the looting by these conspirators who betrayed the public trust for personal gain.

We call upon the US Attorney and Illinois State's Attorney to investigate this matter and recover taxpayer funds improperly transferred out of public scrutiny and accountability.