CHICAGO—Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent a memo to department heads last Friday, ordering them to stop using city credit cards immediately.
That’s because of a Better Government Association/FOX Chicago joint investigation that found city workers using credit cards to pay for expensive dinners, gift cards, and even red light tickets.
What really set Emanuel off was the credit card expenses of the four top Chicago Housing Authority officials, including the CEO, Lewis Jordan.
“Money that should be used for the most vulnerable, those without adequate housing or adequate resources, is going to some of the most lavish restaurants here in Chicago and that’s disgraceful,” said Andy Shaw, executive director of the Better Government Association.
Ground zero for the credit card spending spree was the Gold Coast. The credit card assigned to the CHA CEO Lewis Jordan paid for numerous meals at Carmine’s, Hugo’s Frog Bar, Gibson’s, and even a mentoring lunch with a Chicago public schools student at the Tavern on Rush.
But it’s not just meals.
We also found thousands of dollars in credit card charges for flowers for CHA employees, including monthly cakes to celebrate their birthdays, holiday gifts for senior staff, a suite at the united center to boost employee morale, and nearly $800 to pay for red light camera tickets.
“Obviously the CHA Board was out to lunch when the administration was out to dinner. And as a result they missed this, and a lot of poor people suffer when money is spent this way,” Shaw said.
The CHA did not return any of our phone calls on Monday, but did send out a statement saying they are aware of Emanuel’s concerns and have suspended their use of credit cards.
CHA Board member Mike Ivers said the Board is taking this seriously and has scheduled a special meeting to discuss it.