Last week the Huffington Post finally pried a response from the seemingly bashful Chicago mayoral candidate Gery Chico about his ties to the Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF), the "shady nonprofit" now reportedly under investigation by the Illinois Attorney General's Charitable Trust Bureau.
In Gery Chico Save A Life Foundation Connection: What Was His Role At Troubled Charity? by reporter Will Guzzardi, Chico was asked some of the same questions blogger Lee Cary has been asking him for months.
Since November, Chico and his media rep Brooke Anderson have been dodging Cary, but somehow found time to respond to the HuffPost. To be precise, they responded to one question and ignored others.
This dodge 'em is a far cry from earlier times when Chico - who Chicago Public Radio calls "the ultimate insider" - apparently couldn't say enough about the organization. For example, when he was president of the Board of Education, he "was instrumental in bringing SALF to the Chicago Public Schools." So says his wife Sunny, who served on SALF's Educational Advisory Board.
Check out this weird 1999 presentation to the school board by SALF founder/president Carol J. Spizzirri, reportedly a twice-convicted shoplifter who fabricated medical and educational credentials for herself. Chico and fellow board members Paul Vallas and Dr. Tariq Butt were so deeply moved by her stream of consciousness rap ("Children come into this world very greedy. They want to be fed, they want their diapers changed"), they rolled out the red carpet for her organization.
Don't miss Chico's enthusiastic response to her performance starting at around the 4:00 mark and culminating with, "I don't think we can afford to do anything but do this (SALF program)."
Four years later Chico and the missus were still on board:
Arne Duncan, Gery & Sunny Chico appear at 2003 Save-A-Life Foundation annual conference
And here's an interview show with Chico sharing a couch with Spizzirri and trumpeting his wholehearted support for SALF, circa 2003:
"Stating that he will fight for the SALF programs, Mr. Chico said the training is not a luxury -- but a necessity."
That was then. More recently, when it comes to SALF, he and Mrs. C have been playing hide and seek.
The Huffington Post wanted to know about SALF's claims that Chico had been a member of the organization's Board of Directors, published in an Annual Report...
...and on SALF's website:
Here's the takeaway from the HuffPo story:
A 1999 resolution signed by Gery Chico, then the president of the Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees, certified that Save A Life had trained 10,000 students in the city, and was training another 23,000 that year through volunteer programs.
...When asked about Chico's involvement with the foundation, campaign spokeswoman Brooke Anderson flatly denied his involvement. "Gery wasn't on this board," she said. When presented with page 53 of the above document, Anderson responded, "That link you sent is wrong. Gery was not on that board."
According to Maura Possley, the deputy press secretary for the Illinois Attorney General's Office, a nonprofit misrepresenting the makeup of its board of directors in an annual report would be perjury, a Class 3 felony.
The Huffington Post asked the Chico campaign if it was willing to accuse Save A Life of perjury, and if so, whether it would be willing to publicly call for an investigation into the matter. So far, his campaign has not responded on that question, despite several further attempts at contact.
...It is unclear at this point why Chico would deny he was on the board, or, if indeed he was not, why he would be unwilling to press for further investigation given his forceful campaigning on ethics reform.It's not enough that he's promising ethics reform? He's supposed to take action, too?
Sheesh, talk about your elevated expectations.
Just because Chico and his wife were involved for years with a charity that received $62,000 in unaccounted-for money from the schools and millions more from IL taxpayers, and is now under state investigation, and which may have have committed perjury by falsely claiming he was on their Board of Directors, what do you expect him to do? Write letters to oversight agencies requesting investigations?
Tomorrow Chicago voters will decide if Gery Chico - who promises "more openness, transparency and accountability in city government," meanwhile scuttling away from this opportunity to walk his talk - is fit to be their new mayor.
Elevated expectations indeed.