February 12, 2009
BY CAROL MARIN, TIM NOVAK AND CHRIS FUSCO Staff Reporters
Federal authorities are investigating five construction companies that collectively have gotten hundreds of millions of dollars in construction work at O'Hare Airport under Mayor Daley, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
One question being looked at, sources said, is how the companies landed those city deals.
» Click to enlarge image
Rossi Contractors crew working at O'Hare Airport.
News of the probe comes two days after Daley lobbied Congress to pass President Obama's multibillion-dollar stimulus bill -- a package the mayor wants to include money for his O'Hare Modernization Program, which could cost as much as $15 billion.
The investigation appears to be an outgrowth of the probe of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose fund-raiser Christopher G. Kelly was a top roofing contractor at O'Hare. Kelly worked at O'Hare when John Harris was a top city aviation official. Harris, who later became Blagojevich's chief of staff, was arrested with Blagojevich on Dec. 9 on federal corruption charges.
Last week, Kelly and his BCI Commercial Roofing were charged with paying kickbacks to win work from United Airlines and American Airlines. On Wednesday, Kelly, 50, of Burr Ridge, and his company pleaded not guilty.
Now, sources say, investigators are looking at other O'Hare contractors with ties to Kelly and Blagojevich:
†Rossi Contractors of Northlake. Owned by Ronald Rossi and his family, the company has gotten $261 million in construction work from City Hall since 1993, much of it at O'Hare. Rossi, 52, of Addison, is one of Kelly's best friends, as well as a board member of Kelly's roofing company.
†Castle Construction of Markham. Owned by Robert C. Blum of New Lenox, Castle has gotten more than $40 million in city work since 2004. Blum, 56, also is on the board of Kelly's roofing company. Kelly and Blum teamed on a city roofing contract at O'Hare that paid their companies $8.9 million through 2006. A federal grand jury has subpoenaed records from the Illinois Department of Transportation regarding deals Castle got under Blagojevich.
†Diamond Coring Company Inc., on Chicago's Southeast Side. Owned by Anthony Cappello, 45, of Homer Glen, it has a $25 million asphalt-repair contract at O'Hare. It has also been a subcontractor on other airport work, including the O'Hare Modernization Program.
Two years ago, Blagojevich wanted to appoint Cappello, a Democrat, to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission -- a part-time job paying $32,806 a year. But Blagojevich dropped the appointment because there would have been too many Democrats on the panel, under state law.
Cappello and Diamond Coring have contributed $16,500 to Blagojevich's political fund since 2002. Cappello's company was originally incorporated by attorney Peter T. Vrdolyak, a son of former 10th Ward Ald. Edward R. Vrdolyak.
†The Stealth Group Inc., owned by Cappello's wife, Denise Morsovillo. The city has certified the company as a female-owned business, and it has been hired as a subcontractor by Rossi and other companies to meet minority-contracting rules. The city also has paid the company more than $1.1 million to rehabilitate a baggage room at O'Hare.
The federal investigation includes a $97 million contract for concrete and maintenance work at O'Hare the city awarded in 2006 to Rossi, who was the low bidder to do the job. The only other bidder was Rossi's business associate, Blum. Cappello wanted to bid on the project, but city officials refused to accept his proposal. Cappello's wife was among the subcontractors Rossi planned to hire, city records show.
Blum, Cappello and Rossi didn't return calls Wednesday for comment. Nor did city aviation officials. Kelly's attorney, Michael Monico, said Blum and Rossi, though board members of Kelly's roofing company, had nothing "to do with the operation of BCI."