Despite saying they would seek bids now for the lucrative janitorial work at O’Hare Airport, aides to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel instead gave a no-bid contract extension to a company with a history of controversy.
The city hired the United Maintainence Company, Inc. to clean O’Hare terminals in 2012, signing a five-year contract that was to be worth as much as $99.4 million. The company has settled a wage-theft lawsuit brought by its workers, and its CEO has been under fire for alleged mob connections.
When the deal expired in December, city officials gave United Maintenance a six-month extension through June 13. But Emanuel aides said in January that they would seek bids for a new O’Hare deal before that extension ran out.
Instead, city officials gave a second extension to United Maintenance earlier this month, according to public records.
A spokeswoman for the city’s aviation department said officials still plan to seek bids for the O’Hare janitorial work, but extended the deal with the current contractor until mid-December to ensure “continuity of service.” She said the city was delayed in seeking new bids because it first had to negotiate new lease deals for gates at O’Hare with the airlines — a process that just finished in May.
The city has paid the firm more than $115.2 million under the deal so far, records show.
The CEO of United Maintenance is former Chicago Police Officer Richard Simon. He’s a friend of Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who’s now running for mayor in next year’s election. After he was forced out as top cop in 2015, McCarthy opened up a new business in the South Loop building owned by Simon and worked with Simon’s company.
Simon declined to comment on the new O’Hare contract extension.
In 2016, United Maintenance paid nearly $850,000 to settle a wage-theft lawsuit filed by its workers at O’Hare. The year before that, Rivers Casino fired United Maintenance over Simon’s ties to reputed organized crime figures.
Labor leaders long have criticized the city’s dealings with the company, which has resisted efforts to organize its workers.
Jerry Morrison, assistant to the president of Service Employees International Union Local 1, says the city should not have extended the contract with Simon’s company.
“We’ve argued since this contract was awarded to him that he never should have gotten it,” Morrison told WBEZ. “Obviously, he’s been a problem employer for many, many years.”
Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter for WBEZ. Follow him @dmihalopoulos.