Monday, December 13, 2010

Chicago mayoral candidate Gery Chico says he wants "more openness, transparency and accountability." But will he walk the talk by answering questions about the "shady non-profit"* he was "instrumental in bringing to the Chicago Schools"?

December 13, 2010

Sent via e-mail to,
Faxed to (312)463-1001

Gery ChicoChico & Nunes, P.C.
333 West Wacker Drive Suite 1800
Chicago, IL 60606

Dear Mr. Chico,

I haven’t received a reply to my November 30 inquiry to you in which I asked three quick questions about investigations re: the Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF), a Chicago-area nonprofit with which you and your wife Sunny were associated.

According to a SALF press release, Mrs. Chico said you “were instrumental in bringing SALF into the Chicago Schools.” Based on a video of a 1999 presentation to the Chicago School Board by SALF founder/president Carol Jean Spizzirri and SALF board member Carlos Azcoitia, that statement appears accurate.

In a 2006 WLS-TV I-Team story, Chuck Goudie reported:

One of Illinois' highest profile charities teaches the Heimlich maneuver to children while maneuvering the truth to get money from government and big business. It's called the Save-A-Life Foundation and is known across Illinois as an organization that teaches schoolchildren how to respond in emergencies. For the past few years, Save-A-Life has received millions of dollars in government funds and corporate donations. An ABC7 I-Team investigation has uncovered a series of misleading claims and deceptive credentials that raise doubts about Save-A-Life's integrity, funding and training.

Since then, dozens of critical media reports about SALF have appeared around the country. Reportedly the IL Attorney General’s office is now investigating the organization. Last week I learned that the US Department of Health & Human Services has asked the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to review concerns about a CDC Deputy Director who simultaneously worked as SALF’s corporate treasurer while the CDC was funding SALF. As I informed you in my November 30 letter, last month a San Diego newspaper story by veteran reporter Don Bauder entitled Where Did the Save-A-Life Money Go? included troubling details about Ms. Spizzirri’s criminal and personal background.

Since my previous letter, a number of news stories have reported your call for higher standards of conduct by public officials, such as this December 2 Sun-Times column by Lynn Sweet:

"We don't have to wait for the Illinois Legislature or the federal government to create more openness, transparency and accountability in city government," Gery Chico said. "Let's do it now, let's do it ourselves and let's give our Inspector General the necessary tools to make government better at all levels."

In that spirit, I’m re-submitting my three questions.

1. Have you or has anyone you know been contacted by anyone connected with the Attorney General’s investigation of the Save-A-Life Foundation? If so, please provide details.

2. In federal reports, Save-A-Life claimed it had used a portion of $3.33 million it received from the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to train thousands of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students. However, in response to a federal subpoena and FOIA requests, CPS apparently has no supporting records. Do you recommend that the Inspector General of the Department of Health & Human Services initiate an investigation to determine if those federal millions were properly administered?

3. CPS paid Save-A-Life approximately $62,000 in public funds to provide first aid training to thousands of students, however CPS records indicate that at best a few hundred may have received training.  Do you recommend that CPS Inspector General James M. Sullivan initiate an investigation to determine if the $62,000 paid by CPS to Save-A-Life was properly administered?

Please feel free to add additional related comments of any length.

I’m copying your media representative Brooke Anderson on this e-mail as I did on my November 30 letter. If I don’t receive a response from you or Ms. Anderson in the next few days, my understanding will be that you don’t intend to respond.

Thanks for your continued attention and I hope to hear from you and/or Ms. Anderson.

Lee Cary
Writer, Andrew Breitbart's Big Government, the American ThinkerLittle Elm, TX


Brooke Anderson, Gery Chico for Mayor
Tim Bagwell PhD
Chuck Goudie/WLS-TV
Don Bauder/San Diego
ReaderLynn Sweet/Chicago Sun-Times

* In Case You Missed It: (Sen. Norm) Coleman Connection to Shady Non-Profit Highlighted, MN Democratic Farmer Labor Party press release, September 26, 2008

1999 presentation by Save-A-Life Foundation founder/president Carol J. Spizzirri to the Chicago Board of Education
(1:20) Carol J. Spizzirri: "We've trained over 5000 children since October in schools throughout the city. We have an additional one to 43,000 children to train by the end of June." (Chicago Public Schools cannot produce any substantiating records.)
(7:35) School board president Gery Chico: "How many schools have you said that you've been in with this program?"
Spizzirri: "I think we've been in a dozen we've completed."
Chico: "What's it cost?"
Spizzirri: "It's at 75 cents a child. Except it's a dollar for the instructor."
(9:00) "I don't think we can afford to do anything but do this (SALF program). I don't know what your capacity is. We may have to partner up with the Red Cross."
Spizzirri: "Oh, we have the...we're self sufficient."
Chico: "No, but I mean to do 580 schools, 430,000 students."
Spizzirri: "We still can handle it."

Arne Duncan, Gery & Sunny Chico appear at 2003 Save-A-Life Foundation annual conference