While many regular fans were shelling out big bucks to park near the United Center, Chicago city workers engaged in a scheme to set aside free street parking for friends and family during Blackhawks playoff games and Bulls games, a city inspector ...and more »
While many regular fans were shelling out big bucks to park near the United Center, Chicago city workers engaged in a scheme to set aside free street parking for friends and family during Blackhawks playoff games and Bulls games, a city inspector general report said Monday.
The report suggests the practice also could be taking place at other venues.
During the Blackhawks' 2015 run to the Stanley Cup championship, friends of Office of Emergency Management and Communications personnel were routinely allowed to park on a stretch of Wood Street near the stadium that is supposed to be reserved for media, according to Inspector General Joseph Ferguson's quarterly report.
OEMC workers sometimes blocked off the street, "only granting access to those who OEMC management granted permission to park and directing members of the public to park elsewhere," according to Ferguson's report.
The inspector general's office conducted surveillance of the street 13 times during Hawks games, nine of which were playoff games. The office also watched the street before three Bulls games, according to the report.
"Approximately 62 different, non-OEMC vehicles parked on the west side of Wood between Warren and Madison during the surveillances," the report states. "Many of those vehicles parked on multiple occasions. The parkers included friends and relatives of management-level and supervisory OEMC employees."
OEMC officials would often get requests to park on their city email accounts. They would then relay the names of the drivers and vehicle descriptions to OEMC supervisors working at the United Center, who would pass the information to traffic control aides stationed near the block.
"Evidence suggested that the scheme was happening elsewhere in the city, including at other major venues, and involved other city departments," Ferguson's report says. "While OIG's report focused on the OEMC scheme at the United Center, OIG recommended that OEMC and the City take steps to ensure that the parking scheme was not continuing at other locations and events."
While Ferguson called for the OEMC to fire several employees involved in the scheme, the department instead suspended them from between five and 30 days. The Department of Streets and Sanitation also suspended a worker who availed himself of the preferential parking.
The emergency management department also said it would institute ethics training to teach workers not to give out free parking, according to Ferguson's report.
In an email statement, OEMC Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau said the violations predated her tenure and that she will work to ensure the parking scam is not repeated. "It is a privilege to serve the public as a city employee, and we expect all employees to adhere to the highest ethical standards," she said.
United Center,Chicago Blackhawks,Chicago Bulls,parking