CHICAGO—During his tenure as CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority, Lewis A. Jordan was whipping out the plastic credit cards and ultimately charging taxpayers for his meals at some of the city’s most lavish restaurants.
But from now on, Jordan’s dinner tabs will likely be on his own dime.
Following recent disclosures by the Better Government Association and FOX Chicago News—as well as nagging questions about Jordan’s management practices and use of police-chauffeured cars—he announced he’s resigning his $185,000-a-year position.
Jordan had been one of the few high-profile holdovers from the Daley administration and before his recent spate of negative press, apparently enjoyed the confidence of the new Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel.
That confidence eroded in recent days, although an Emanuel aide said the mayor did not force out Jordan, who took over the CHA in January 2008. In an earlier report, the BGA and FOX disclosed that the credit card assigned to Jordan paid for numerous meals at upscale eateries including Carmine’s, Hugo’s Frog Bar, Gibsons and even a mentoring lunch with a Chicago Public Schools student at the Tavern on Rush.
CHA credit cards also were used by staffers to pay for flowers, gifts, a suite at the United Center, and red-light camera tickets—to the tune of nearly $800.
Jordan has not responded to numerous requests for an interview.
Responding to his resignation, the BGA’s Andy Shaw said: “This behavior represents a woeful lack of understanding of what public service is all about. What Lewis Jordan did not understand was that his first responsibility was to the residents. Citizens have a right to expect that CHA dollars are used to support and improve the living conditions for the poorest among us, not for wining and dining a select few on the Gold Coast.”
Shaw added: “There’s also a message here for the CHA Board. It shouldn’t take a watchdog group such as the Better Government Association to sniff out these problems. The CHA Board has a duty to oversee and ensure that the agency operates responsibly. We hope the CHA Board and the next CEO will take this duty seriously.”
But the chairman of the CHA Board, James Reynolds, released a written statement that seemed to put more blame on the media than Jordan, saying:
“It is with great reluctance that I accept the resignation of Lewis Jordan as Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Housing Authority. Over the course of our collaboration as CEO and Board Chairman, I have recognized Lewis as one of the finest professionals with whom I have ever worked. The successes and accomplishments of CHA during his tenure are numerous; he has moved the organization forward with boldness and with compassion simultaneously. Lewis is a solid leader, having demonstrated this in the management of his staff, his partnership with the Board and community stakeholders, and most of all in his service to CHA residents.
“Given the scrutiny surrounding the recent media coverage, I fully understand Lewis’ desire to move forward to end the attacks regarding his character and ethics. Yet, I have confidence that Lewis will carry on with dignity, having gained the respect of a great many Chicagoans, as well as a great number of followers across the country who have recognized how much he has done to improve the national perception of public housing. I wish him all the best in his career and future endeavors.”