Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dozens of companies, people get lifetime ban from city work

October 7, 2008

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter/fspielman@suntimes.com
Twenty-five companies and 26 individuals -- most of them caught up in the Hired Truck and minority contracting scandals -- have been banned forever from doing business with the city.

"The city should be consistently sending the message that, no matter who you are and who you know, you'll be barred from benefiting from city contracts if you act unethically," said Inspector General David Hoffman, whose office investigated seven of the targeted firms.

"I don't think Procurement has ever taken action against this many companies and individuals. It's a step in the right direction and suggests a seriousness about debarment matters that is welcome."

The city contracting equivalent of the death penalty targets 20 individuals and 18 companies convicted of criminal offenses in federal court.

The Procurement Services Department's hit list includes: A. Affetto Trucking and Anthony Affetto; American Tank Inc. and Timothy Shrader; Cayla Trucking and owners Richard and Debra Coveliers; Elliott Inc. and Martin McDonagh; FRC Trucking and Frank Cannattello; Garfield Trucking and Richard Rylewicz and Charles Romano; Get Plowed, Inc. and owner Michael C. Jones; GNA Trucking and John Canatello; Joseph S. Ignoffo and Ignoffo Trucking; LR&C Truck Line and Leroy and Commelie Peters; R&V Trucking and Robert Mangiamele; Sarch Hauling Ltd. and Salvador Alverez.

The debarment list also includes Leahy & Assoc., John Leahy and Edward Wisniewski, co-defendants in the $100 million minority business fraud engineered by the mob-connected Duff family. It also targets companies involved in a fraudulent fence contract that victimized the Chicago Board of Education. They are: Tru-Link Fence and Products, Tru-Link Commercial, Inc. and owner James H. Levin; MPZ, MPZ Enterprise and MPZ Construction and James Picardi, brother of Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Michael Picardi.

Seven companies and associated individuals were never convicted, but nevertheless handed lifetime bans after Hoffman found "substantial evidence" that they had either forged documents as part of the minority certification process, obstructed investigators or otherwise de-frauded the city.

They include: Patricia Trucking; Victory Transport; Pitts Transportation; G& L Trucking, Inc. and ATS Decorators. Two other companies -- Chicago Sound and Joyce Ford -- were debarred earlier this year.

For years, Chicago Sound supplied sound equipment for city festivals. According to Hoffman, the company was partly owned by Lori Cole, whose father was one of the founders of Cole Taylor Bank. The city's investigation determined that Cole was not a legitimate women's business enterprise, the inspector general said.

Earlier this year, Chief Procurement Officer Montel Gayles found himself in hot water with Mayor Daley after issuing a three-year ban against James Duff, head of a mob-connected family that became the poster child for minority business fraud in Chicago.

Hours after defending a penalty that African-American aldermen condemned as a slap on the wrist, Gayles fell on his sword and ordered the permanent debarment that Hoffman recommended more than a year ago.

"The Department of Procurement Services, along with the Office of the Inspector General, is committed to eliminating misconduct and fraud from city contracting," Gayles said Monday in a press release.

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