Months ago the Reader asked the city for agendas from the meetings held to determine the winning bidder for the parking meter lease. The city complied—but most of the documents had been blacked out. So we wrote about that.
Scott Waguespack, alderman of the 32nd Ward, was bothered when he heard, and at a public hearing on July 2 he asked Daley administration officials for a clean copy of the documents. As of last week, he was still waiting and I was still writing about it.
Then a funny thing happened.
On Wednesday the good-government group IVI-IPO brought the parking meter privatization mess back into the news by suing the city over it. That same day the documents appeared in Waguespack’s City Hall mailbox. He said no explanation was given.
Progress Illinois' Angela Caputo has a fine post on this development (as well as a clip from an interview with Andy Shaw, the energetic new director of the Better Government Association; he makes the spot-on point that whether the lawsuit succeeds or not may be less important than the additional information about the deal it might reveal to the public).
You can read the docs here (pdf). Tom Lanctot, a top official with William Blair & Company, the city’s financial adviser for the deal, told Waguespack in July that there was nothing “nefarious” about the documents—which only underscores the absurdity of keeping them private all this time.
That said, the documents do clarify a few things.
• They confirm that the only people present for the unveiling of the bids—the end of what the city has described as a “robust, open, transparent, and competitive bid process”—were top officials with the Daley administration and William Blair, which was awarded a no-bid contract to help execute the deal. The bid opening was done in William Blair’s offices.
• The bidders were required to submit economic disclosure statements revealing details about their investors and financial interests—supposedly giving city officials a heads up about possible conflicts of interest. But the city lawyer working on the deal apparently didn’t have time to give them more than a quick read before the decision was made to move ahead with the deal: “Jim McDonald will begin reviewing any EDS forms delivered with the bid packages,” the agendas say. And the next step: “Jim McDonald to identify any preliminary issues related to the EDS submissions.” The more than 200 pages of documents together revealed an extremely complicated ownership structure for the bidding entity. The documents call it Morgan Stanley, though the agreement was signed by Chicago Parking Meters LLC, an entity Morgan Stanley later formed.
• If the deal continues to be a political problem for the city, Mayor Daley will have a hard time deflecting blame, as is his custom. The agendas make it clear that the project will proceed only “if Mayor Daley elects to accept the bid.”