Congress Theater's new security chief: An ex-cop with a troubled past

Congress security chief fired from PD for “dangerous and offensive conduct”

November 2, 2012

The consultant who spoke about great strides forward in security at the troubled Congress Theater during Wednesday’s fourth Deleterious Impact/Public Nuisance Hearing is a former Chicago police officer fired in June 2011 for what the Police Board called “dangerous and offensive conduct.”

Bill Whelehan is one of three managers of BluCorp Consultants listed in state corporate filings. He formed the new company in February with his father, a retired police lieutenant also named Bill, and his brother-in-law, John Curry, who still serves on the police force. The firm began providing security to the Congress, its first major client, about 10 weeks ago.

The younger Whelehan, the point person for the firm at the theater, was fired by a unanimous vote of the nine-member Police Board after an altercation with a neighbor over an errant pet in November 2009 on the city’s far Northwest Side. According to the board’s Findings and Decision, Whelehan was guilty of:

 “Provoking an altercation by placing a bag of dog feces on [the neighbor]’s doorstep; calling [the neighbor] a nigger; pointing a gun without justification at [the neighbor], who was not armed and not threatening the Respondent; failing to identify himself as a police officer when drawing his weapon, and writing false official reports and making false official statements in an attempt to cover up his misconduct.”

The board concluded that Whelehan’s conduct was “sufficiently serious to constitute a substantial shortcoming that renders his continuance in his office detrimental to the discipline and efficiency of the service of the Chicago Police Department.”

Whelehan, who was 27 when the incident happened, could not be reached. But Curry, the firm’s public relations spokesman, defended his brother-in-law for the altercation in the past and lauded the firm’s work at the Congress in the present. (Police Department regulations do not prohibit active officers from owning security businesses, but Curry says to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, he is not directly involved in day-to-day oversight of the Congress.)

(Disclosure: Curry is a friend of a woman who often babysat my daughter about 10 years ago.)

 “I believe the Police Board firing was wrong, but their finding was their finding,” Curry said. “We were brought in to help fix the Congress—I live two blocks away with my family—and we’re trying to fix a publicity problem and a functional security problem. Billy is doing a great job there implementing good security procedures, and we do what we do there based on the guidelines of the law.”

Though Wednesday’s hearing included some testimony about security difficulties since BluCorp began working at the Congress, including the handling of a young woman with medical problems who security believed was intoxicated and several intrusive incidents by security looking for drug use in curtained-off bathroom stalls, two neighbors who spoke said they believe security has improved since BluCorp took the job.

Congress owner Erineo “Eddie” Carranza and his attorney Thomas Raines also defended their new security partner and the job his firm is doing.

Wrote Carranza via email: “Most of us have been fired from some job at some point... As you heard yesterday, BluCorp is doing a great job at the Congress and most of that has to do with Bill. Whatever happened in the past is in the past. Bill is a relatively young guy and I think he deserves a second chance. We all saw from the comments about the job BluCorp is doing at Congress yesterday that Bill is making the most of his opportunity here. I’m glad I gave him that opportunity.”

Added Raines in a phone interview: “These guys are running a good security firm at the Congress. I admire Eddie’s stance on this: ‘He’s doing a great job. He doesn’t deserve a second chance?’ I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. The guy deserves a second chance and it looks like he’s making the most of it.”

First Ward Ald. Proco Joe Moreno, who missed the latest Congress hearing to attend a City Council meeting, said he had been unaware of Whelehan’s background before he was informed by a reporter. Moreno has long urged Carranza to hire “a proper and legitimate security company” to replace in-house security staffers.

“I was hoping that they finally had done that,” Moreno said. “Now I’m concerned and I find this very disturbing that this is the company they went with.”

Meanwhile, the Deleterious Impact/Public Nuisance proceedings are not the only front in which Carranza and the Congress are fighting with the city to stay in business. The theater also is facing the potential revocation of its liquor license, and a second hearing in those proceedings—which Moreno’s office has not been part of—will take place in room 805 at City Hall at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Also scheduled for next week: the eviction hearing for the Portage Theater management company, whom Carranza is hoping to oust from the second major venue he recently purchased. Those proceedings are set to take place before Judge Leonard Murray in Cook County Circuit Court at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

 

Earlier reports about Carranza, the Congress and the Portage:

Oct. 31: Congress Theater police calls rank with Soldier Field, United Center

Sept. 23: How did things turn so bad so fast at the Portage Theater?

Sept. 22: New Owner of the Portage Theater moves to evict current operators

Sept. 16: Congress Theater splits with development partner

Sept. 11: The Portage Theater: What’s Eddie up to?

July 26: Congress Theater partners up… and looks to expand

April 14: More trouble at the Congress Theater

March 28: Critical of Congress security, headliner brings his own

March 25: Congress Theater responds to complaints

March 22: City to Congress Theater: Clean up your act!