Ald. Patrick O'Connor had a vacant eyesore inhis ward after the Edgewater Medical Centerclosed in December 2001, and he quickly movedto get the expanse of unused parking lots developed.
He asked the City Councilto rezone the property forhomes and sent MayorRichard Daley a letter saying"there has been some interestby developers in theproperty."
Over the next year, a firmcalled CA Developmentemerged as the developer.
CA had a history ofworking with the alderman'swife, Barbara O'Connor,having hired her to sellhomes in other developments.
They hired her again forthe Edgewater Squaresubdivision that rose fromthe vacant hospital land, andshe ultimately sold all 27homes built there.
Patrick O'Connor said itwas not improper for thedeveloper to hire his wifeafter he had pushed for theredevelopment.
O'Connor said he didnot meet the developer"until long after" thecouncil approved thezoning change. "Theyhave the right to hiremy wife at that point,"the alderman said.
J. Paul Bertsche, thedevelopment company's vicepresident and generalcounsel, said BarbaraO'Connor did a good job onthe previous projects so hehired her again. "She is not aperson who sits back andcollects commissions becauseof who she knows or who herhusband knows," Bertschesaid.
The project had the supportof a local community group.But John Knox, a homeownerwho lives near the site, saidhis calls for converting someof the old hospital parkinglots into a park went ignored.
"It makes you a littlecynical about the process,"Knox said. "I can't tell youBarbara O'Connor didn't getthe business on her ownbecause I don't know. But ithas the appearance ofimpropriety.
"There's a controversy overa project, and then you seehis wife as exclusive listingagent."
Barbara O'Connor hasgone on to sell many otherhomes for CA Developmentaround the city. She currentlyis selling homes forthe firm in a newsubdivision in the OldIrving Park neighborhood.
Patrick O'Connorvoted for the zoningrequest for the OldIrving Park project whenit came up for councilapproval. He suggested in aninterview that he wasunaware he was votingfor a proposal from adeveloper who hasemployed his wife.
"I don't know whenCA hires her or whenthey have somethinggoing through thecouncil unlesssomebody tells methat it's there," the alderman said.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times