Chicago Sun-Times
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Rahm says UNO chief is taking steps to "clean his house"

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday United Neighborhood Organization CEO Juan Rangel is "taking appropriate steps to clean his house" after allegations of contract cronyism and family hiring.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this month that Rangel has three relatives on his payroll.

That's on top of the previously reported contract cronyism that sent more than one-fifth of the $25 million in taxpayer money spent on the UNO Soccer Academy Elementary Charter School to four contractors owned by family members of UNO's political allies and a top executive of the group.

The fact that Emanuel is a huge proponent of charter schools and that Rangel is the mayor's former campaign co-chairman and a mayoral appointee to the Emanuel-chaired Public Building Commission makes the Sun-Times stories a political embarrassment to the mayor.

Emanuel has already said UNO should be "held accountable" for contract cronyism with a $98 million state grant believed to be the nation's largest government investment in charter schools.

On Thursday, he talked about the all-in-the-family hiring.

"If you get public resources, you have to abide by both the letter and the spirit" of the law, the mayor said.

Obviously referring to Rangel, Emanuel said, "I know he's taking appropriate steps to clean his house. That said, they serve a very important role [in] the education of Chicago for the children so parents have choice in educational options for their children."

Sun-Times Watchdogs reported that UNO's special status as a private operator of publicly-funded charter schools has allowed it to avoid the state's normal sealed-bid process.

That has set the stage for many of its contracts to go companies with family or political ties to an organization that includes some of the same players once at the center of the now-defunct Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO) at the heart of the city contracting scandal.

The Sun-Times reported that UNO has given millions of dollars in construction contracts to companies owned by the brothers of its senior vice president of operations, Miguel d'Escoto.

Other contracts went to the plumbing business owned by the sister of former HDO chieftain Victor Reyes, who helped UNO lobby for the school construction grant, and another to a security company owned by the brother of state Rep. Edward Acevedo, another HDO ally.

The newspaper also reported that UNO contractors donated at least $51,000 to Silvana Tabares in her successful state representative campaign and that UNO employees gathered most of the signatures on Tabares' nominating petitions.

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