Report finds financial misconduct at Chicago's OEMC

October 18, 2010 (CHICAGO)

In city government there is a process for awarding contracts and spending taxpayer money. The Chicago inspector general says that top officials of the Office of Emergency Management and Communication ignored the rules and simply handed out a $23 million contract for new digital radio equipment to a vendor of their own choosing.

Even "more troubling," says the inspector general, city officials then falsified documents to cover their tracks.

It is the city agency responsible for handling your calls to 9-1-1 for police, fire and ambulance help: OEMC, the same office that shapes Chicago's planned response to a terrorist attack or natural disaster.

Now, in a new report, OEMC is named as the same agency where Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson has found "a significant risk to the city's emergency preparedness" due to contract irregularities, an "improperly routed $23 million contract," according to a summary of the IG's official investigation opened in 2007.

The contract was awarded to Schaumburg-based Motorola, according to City Hall sources, without putting the deal through city-required bidding. Then, according to the inspector general, officials at "OEMC had falsified documents" to make it appear on the up and up.

The I-Team has learned that four high-ranking OEMC employees were involved in the contract scheme and two of them are still public employees in Chicago.

The employees are not named in the inspector general's report which was submitted to the mayor and City Council.

Identifying who did what in the contract rigging was one of the problems that investigators had; largely, they said, because of lacking internal controls and missing paperwork, along with high turnover at emergency management headquarters.

Motorola is not accused of doing anything wrong.

It is unlikely anyone will be charged.

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