The charity founded by former Chicago first lady Maggie Daley received more than $900,000 in mostly undisclosed contributions from companies subsidized by much-criticized special taxing districts, according to a report released today by the city’s top internal watchdog.
After School Matters got 16 contributions — far more any other private, non-profit charity — found in the fine print of tax increment finance district agreements negotiated by city officials and aldermen under former Mayor Richard Daley, Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s report states. (Read the report here.)
Ferguson, who has criticized the city’s use of special taxing districts, said city officials were unable to explain exactly how and why charities received money. There is no oversight and no guidelines to evaluate the programs that got money.
“In the absence of established guidelines for public benefits clauses, the frequent selection of After School Matters for public benefits creates the appearance of preferential treatment for an organization with close ties to the city,” the report states.
Many of the contributions were not publicly disclosed along with other TIF details on the city’s web site, the report states.
Overall, the practice creates the appearance that the money from the city’s TIF program “is essentially subsidizing the donations to private charities,” the report said.
From 2002 to 2009, there were 27 agreements in which developers contributed $3.7 million to non-profits, the inspector general found. After School Matters and its KidStart Program was named as a recipient in 16 of them and ended up with $915,000, according to the report.
Ferguson was careful to make clear he was not evaluating the worthiness of After School Matters or the other charities that received the grants. But he did note After School Matters’ “close ties to the city” and pointed out it also receives office space, equipment and grant-writing assistance from the city.
The charity provides after-school programming for city youth and oversees summer job-training programs. At its recent 20-year anniversary gala, which raised more than $2.8 million for the group, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was effusive in his praise for the group and its founder.
“We are a richer city, a better city, because of Maggie Daley’s perseverance,” Emanuel said at the event. “There have been countless groups from other cities, other countries, (that have come) to see Maggie Daley’s after-school program.”
Maggie Daley responded by returning the praise.
“You are a true champion of Chicago’s youth, and we look forward to working with you and your administration to provide even more of these opportunities to these teens who need it,” she said.
Emanuel was asked about the report at an unrelated news conference this afternoon.
“I’ve got to look at the report,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “As you know, in the first three days I established a TIF board review. Two, the charge of the TIF board was to reform TIFs, so they were focused on economic and business and job creation and weren’t a instrument of politics or political favoritism, but economic growth.”
The Tribune sent other questions to Emanuel's office for a response.
Since 1995, the city has made payments to After School Matters of more than $54 million, according to the city’s web site. Just days before Emanuel took office, the city awarded After School Matters a one-year, nearly $6.5 million contract to oversee summer-jobs and after-school programs. The program also has been the recipient of millions in funding from Chicago Public Schools and state government.
Gallery 37, the precursor to After School Matters, started in 1991 on Block 37, a then-vacant parcel in the heart ofLoop. It was the idea of Maggie Daley and Lois Weisberg, the city’s cultural affairs commissioner at the time.
Under white tents, 260 teenagers were taught by professional artists. Five years later, the program partnered with Chicago Public Schools, and in 2000 it expanded to include technology, sports and communications programs.
Today, the charity has 75 full-time employees. Last year, its budget was $27.5 million. Up to 20,000 students take part in activities overseen by the organization, which has arts, athletic and academic programs at schools, parks, libraries and community centers.
Emanuel took office in mid-May. In late July, Raymond Orozco, who was Richard Daley’s chief of staff at the end of his 22-year tenure, was named CEO of After School Matters. Katherine LaMantia, who was Daley’s acting cultural affairs commissioner at the end of his term, was hired as the group’s chief financial officer, a position that previously did not exist.
Ferguson suggests the city could “cease naming private entities as recipients of private donations under public benefit clauses.” Absent that, the city publicly disclose the public benefit agreements and establish criteria to select private beneficiaries.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times