Mayor Rahm's just a stubborn kind of fella when it comes to that O'Hare janitorial contract | Bleader

Mayor Rahm's just a stubborn kind of fella when it comes to that O'Hare janitorial contract


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Yesterday's Sun-Times brought us the latest installment in reporter Dan Mihalopoulos's ongoing investigation of how Mayor Rahm's managed to make a royal mess out of the janitorial service contract at O'Hare.

That's the five-year, $99 million contract the mayor gave to the bosses of United Maintenance Co., Inc., to clean the airport.

Well, of course, United Maintenance's bosses won't be the ones actually mopping the floors and cleaning the toilets. They're hiring people—who'll get about $12 an hour—to do that. Which should leave the bosses themselves a nice chunk of change.

Ah, the joys of privatization . . .

My favorite parts of these stories come when Mihalopoulos or his colleague Fran Spielman turn to the administration for comment on the latest outrage.

At which point the mayor or his spokespeople bend over backward to pretend that what the Sun-Times has revealed is so monumentally insignificant it will not in any way cause them to even remotely reconsider this contract, which will cost close to $100 million over the next five years.

As I may have already mentioned.

One thing Mihalopoulos has revealed is that a high-ranking employee at United Maintenance once "served a prison sentence after he was charged in the same corruption case as late Chicago mob boss Anthony 'Big Tuna' Accardo."

It's a detailed account, bolstered by quotes from concerned law-enforcement officials. But an unnamed Emanuel source dismissed it all as "rumor or innuendo."

God forbid the mayor's staff look into the allegations themselves.

Then Mihalopoulos broke the story that Richard Simon, who owns United Maintenance, "didn't disclose that he had sold a major stake in the business during the time it pursued and landed" the aforementioned $100 million contract, "even though the city requires bidders to provide 'current ownership of information.'"

United did update its ownership information, but only after receiving the contract. In other words, city staffers awarded an $100 million contract to people they didn't know they were awarding it to.

You'd think a mayor who's made such a big deal about transparency would be a bit concerned about this. After all, what's the point of making contractors fill out disclosure forms if the information they disclose changes soon after they disclose it?

But when asked about the matter, the mayor said, "A lot of companies update their forms. And they were updated in this aspect."

Hey, what, me worry?

Well, Mihalopoulos's latest revelation regarding the motorized hygienic toilet seats is that they're not, as he puts it, "very hygienic after all."

"As the plastic wrapping rotates over seats, it drags up liquid from the rim of toilet bowls and leaves drops . . . atop seats, on the clear plastic film that's supposed to be clean."

I happened to read these details over breakfast—big mistake.

When asked for comment, Mihalopoulos reports, a United Maintenance spokesman said, "Our understanding is that it was clean water, not soiled water, on the seats."

I'm sure that's reassuring to everyone using the toilets at O'Hare.

So Mihalopoulos conducted a field investigation: "In a visit to a men's restroom at O'Hare on Monday morning, the Sun-Times found that any liquid that happens to splash on the rim of a toilet bowl can end up on the seat, where the next user of the stall can unwittingly squat down onto a mess."

I swear—Mihalopoulos deserves a Pulitzer for getting to the bottom of this shit!

The mayor's response to all of this? "Well, nobody's perfect."

Sorry, that's what Joe E. Brown said to Jack Lemmon at the end of Some Like It Hot.

Actually, the mayor's spokeswoman at the Department of Aviation told the Sun-Times, "We are aware of no airport customer complaints about the toilet seat issue you mention."

You'd figure she'd say something like, "Yuck, Dan, that's fucking disgusting!" But the aviation department stuck to its guns even after conducting a follow-up report.

Here's an idea.

The next time the mayor's jets off to D.C., he should stop in at an O'Hare restroom and try out the new toilet seats himself. All of Chicago awaits his report.

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