The interim president of Richard J. Daley College allowed a private basketball program attended by his sons to use Daley College’s gym for free, waiving $70,800 in fees the program should have paid the college, according to a City Colleges of Chicago’s Inspector General report released this month.
The inspector general called the president’s behavior “unbecoming of a public employee.”
The report says then-interim president Eduardo Garza gave the South Cook Jaguars, a grade-school team, preferential treatment and allowed them to use the gym 90 times without paying between September 2017 and August 2018. The report doesn’t name Garza but WBEZ confirmed his identity through board documents and multiple sources.
Garza served as interim president at the Southwest Side community college from August 2017 until Janine Janosky became the new president early this month.Garza was then appointed vice president of “institutional effectiveness,” a new position at the college, with an annual salary of $137,000.
The report found that while Garza was interim president, 22% of facility use agreements with the school had their fees waived overall. Two had fees partially waived.
The decision to waive thousands of dollars in fees comes as City Colleges faces continued enrollment declines, including at Daley College, and shaky finances. Earlier this month, the board approved 29 full and part time non-faculty layoffs, including eight positions at Daley College.
“I consider that a slap in the face to our members,” said Tony Johnston, president of the faculty union, Local 1600. “They are coming to work every day and helping students and we have a person in a place of authority like a president who is basically just turning his back on policies, sound policies, and being rewarded.”
The report came out two weeks after City Colleges’ fired Harold Washington College president Ignacio Lopez for violating the system’s requirement that employees live in Chicago. That was also discovered by the inspector general’s office.
In response to the inspector general’s findings, City Colleges issued Garza a written warning. In a statement, City Colleges praised Garza’s for serving Daley College “well during his tenure as interim president.”
“A lifetime membership”
The South Cook Jaguars started using the gym for free in November 2017, mainly in the evenings multiple nights a week through August 2018. The report shows that while the program used Daley’s gym, they were paying to use another facility through the Chicago Park District. The basketball program did not return a request for comment by WBEZ.
In May 2018, the basketball program’s owner emailed Garza and his wife saying, “The [president’s] family now has a [private basketball program] Lifetime Membership, with all rights and privileges. Thank you!”
According to the report, Garza forwarded that email to his personal account. But he and his wife told the inspector general they never accepted the membership for their children.
The report also found that during his time as president, Garza allowed his son’s parochial grammar school to use the gym for basketball practice five times between October 2017 and February 2018. Two of his son’s were on the basketball team. Garza said he did not fill out facility use agreements because he was in the gym at the time, but emails cited by the inspector general show that was not always accurate.
The inspector general’s report said that during their investigation, Garza claimed the basketball program was using the gym as part of an effort to “enhance community awareness of the City College and to serve as a precursor to a City College basketball program for community youth.”
However, the IG report concluded there was no evidence of a partnership that provided value to City Colleges. Garza did nothing to study the value of the partnership for City Colleges or provide oversight over the partnership. The president also claimed some parents became involved in Daley’s continuing education program but could not provide evidence of that claim.
“Despite claiming that he is a “data person,” the president could not provide data regarding the kids who utilized the gym at the City College through the private basketball program,” the inspector general wrote.
“It is reasonable to conclude that the purported ‘partnership’ was simply a boon to the private basketball program,” the report stated. “They were able to run their usual programs at no cost for the City College gym space. Such willingness to waive $70,000 in revenue called into question the president’s judgment.”
A written warning
The inspector general’s office recommended City Colleges take “appropriate disciplinary action” against Garza, who it concluded “acted unbecoming of a public employee.” The office also recommended City Colleges specify in its ethics policy that employees must make an effort to return a gift regardless of if it was actually accepted, and notify the ethics office when a gift has been offered.
According to the report, City Colleges Chancellor Juan Salgado issued a written warning to Garza. The report says City Colleges is in the process of debarring South Cook Jaguars as of its publication.
At an August 1 meeting, the City Colleges Board of Trustees approved a resolution praising Garza for “leading a process of continual improvement and providing increased educational opportunities, supports and services for students at the college.”
City Colleges of Chicago did not comment directly on the inspector general’s findings, but responded to written questions submitted by WBEZ. Spokeswoman Katheryn Hayes said it’s not uncommon for colleges to waive fees for nonprofits, but did not specifically address WBEZ’s question about why Garza waived $70,800 in fees when the college was forced to lay off employees.
“Dr. Garza served Daley College well during his tenure as interim president,” Hayes said. “His experience and expertise regarding Daley College will be a valuable asset for the new president.”