by Mick Dumke
The parking meter privatization mess may not be settled yet.
The Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization sued the city of Chicago this morning, charging that because of the meter deal taxpayer money is illegally being used to benefit a private company, Chicago Parking Meters LLC.
The suit also alleges that the city violated state law by stripping future City Councils of the ability to manage the public right of way and by delegating police powers—the ability to write parking tickets—to LAZ Parking, the private firm hired to oversee day to day operations of the meter system.
In addition, it argues that the state of Illinois should not be able to use public money to revoke anyone’s driving privileges stemming from Chicago meter violations. You can read a PDF of the full complaint here.
“The Concession Agreement has obligated and continues to obligate the City to expend public funds in order to police, enforce and maintain the privately-held and privately-controlled parking meter system,” the suit says. Under state law, it argues, the “right to regulate the use of the streets does not grant the City of Chicago with authority to lease parts, or all, of a public street.”
Clint Krislov, one of the attorney representing the IVI-IPO, says the group wants to have the deal reworked or nullified. “What we are seeking is to enjoin the expenditure of public funds in connection with the agreement, unless or until the deal is reformed.”
Krislov credited the Reader for leading the way in looking into the deal and said he'd consulted documents we'd acquired from the city and posted online.
My calls to the city’s finance and law departments were not returned right away, but as public outrage has grown since the agreement was consummated last December, Daley administration officials have continued to assert that it was a good deal for taxpayers that helped the city avoid even more dramatic budget problems than it already has.
And city lawyers have said that killing the deal is practically impossible, since it doesn’t include a termination clause. “We’d have to negotiate it,” assistant corporation counsel Jim McDonald told aldermen in a hearing last month—and from a position of weakness. Chicago Parking Meters would almost certainly demand more than the money it paid the city for control of the system in the first place.
Plus, the city’s already spent a good chunk of the cash.
Meanwhile, as I reported last week, aldermen still haven’t received all the information they've requested from the administration about how the deal was put together in 2007 and 2008.
UPDATE: Law department spokesperson Jennifer Hoyle says the city has not yet been served with the lawsuit though they have obtained a copy and have determined that they will fight it aggressively as it's without merit.