Last night, in the wake of the payroll fiasco, the university apparently hosted a gala event honoring Emil Jones for giving a little bit of money to the school. Or was it for Emil Jones temporarily saving Watson’s job? Why did Emil Jones work so hard for Watson? Why did he organize the groundswell of “public” support for the embattled president? Why the lavish do for someone giving such a modest gift to the school? I suggest there are close to eighty million reasons for honoring the former State Senate president.
When Wayne Watson took control of the City Colleges in 1998, one of his early moves involved the hiring of someone named Louis Herman as an Information Technology “consultant.” Herman received $110,000 plus $15,000 in expenses for the year he did consulting work. There is scant mention of him in the Board Reports of the City Colleges, but in May, 1999, he apparently became instrumental in the awarding of a no-bid contract for computer services to a company named Synchronous Solutions. According to one report, the company had been incorporated in “February 1998 . . . with a handful of employees [and] functioned as a placement service for businesses needing specific technological help.” However, running the company were two of Emil Jones’ relatives: his stepson and nephew.
Despite the company’s extremely limited experience, on June 3, 1999, the City Colleges contracted to pay it $375,000 for “professional consulting services,” that encompassed “the recruiting and placement of three consultants to render services for the District’s library systems and systems analysts for the Office of Information Technology.” The City Colleges requested and received a waiver from the competitive bidding process due to the fledgling company’s “considerable experience in recruiting and placement of consultants in the area of information technology.”
The 1999 contract proved the first in a series of eleven no-bid contracts bestowed upon the company by Wayne Watson. The total amount of these deals: $78 million dollars. The company’s final deal with Wayne Watson amounted to a payoff of more than $44 million for a three-year contract from 2007 to 2010. For verification of these contracts and their respective amounts, the curious (or skeptical) may consult the following City Colleges Board of Trustees action items: 21340, 22085, 22265, 23645, 23739, 23905, 23950, 26172, 27031, 27915.
Of course, the budget of Chicago State is much smaller than the one at City Colleges. Nevertheless, I wonder if this is our future? Between 1999 and 2010, Emil Jones’ family benefitted from his acquaintance with Wayne Watson to the tune of $78 million in taxpayer funds, all of it spent with no oversight. Although current City College Board regulations require competitive bidding for contracts over $25,000, that requirement is easily skirted. Certainly, the less stringent requirements that exist here can also be circumvented. What is wrong with the people of this city and this state that they allow this invitation to corruption to exist? On a smaller scale, how much did last night’s shindig cost and where did the money come from? Given their failure to meet payroll yesterday, perhaps the university had some extra money lying around.