Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Owned By Children Of Local Cop, Unlicensed Security Firm Got $60K In Taxpayer Money To Patrol Lakeview Streets


What's $59,075 among friends in Chicago?

Records show that a suburban company received nearly $60,000 in taxpayer money entrusted to the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce (LVECC) to provide public security patrols from December 2014 until last September.

But the company that received the tax money is not licensed to contract security services in Illinois, and the services that were supposedly completed by the company appear to have been performed by a different firm—-one that’s owned by 19th District Police Officer Thomas J. Walsh.

City employees, including cops, are prohibited by law from having an ownership stake in a company that receives payment for city work.

Thomas Walsh Jr (left) and Thomas Walsh Sr (2nd from left) at the LVECC holiday party in 2015. | Facebook
Other than invoices from the company and the taxpayer's checks, there is literally no documentation whatsoever regarding the 20-month relationship according to the City of Chicago's Department of Planning and Development and LVECC Executive Director Maureen Martino’s responses to our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records.
 
   Related To This Report 
There is no contract; no letter of understanding; no list of expectations; no explanation of duties; no incident reports; no activity reports; no confirmation of hourly rates or changes to those rates; and no written records regarding scheduling or manpower needs. And there are no security plans or documentation for two annual street festivals that accounted for almost $20,000 of the total tax-paid security bill, the city said.

In fact, Martino told the city, over the course of the relationship with A&T Security LLC, there were exactly two emails between LVECC and the River Forest firm: both were incoming invoices.

Payments to A&T were mailed to this real estate firm in suburban River Forest. | Google


A “Realty” Show

On paper, A&T Security is owned by Amanda Walsh and her brother, Thomas Walsh Jr, according to state records. While both of the Walsh children are licensed to work personally as unarmed security guards, neither they nor A&T is licensed to contract security services according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).

Amanda and Thomas Jr's father is a long-time community policing officer in the Chicago Police Department's Town Hall station at 850 West Addison.

Beginning in January 2015, the LVECC sent an average of $3,000 a month in taxpayer money to A&T for security guard services. The checks were mailed to a River Forest real estate company where the Walsh children’s mother—Officer Walsh’s ex-wife—was working, according to paperwork filed in an unrelated federal case. Walsh Jr also possesses a state real estate broker's license.

Walsh Jr lists Director of Operations at Walsh Security as his position on LinkedIn. There is no mention of A&T. His sister, Amanda Walsh, works for Goldman Sachs, according to her Facebook profile.
Unlike his children, Officer Walsh is a state-licensed private security contractor and his firm, Walsh Security LLC, is a fully-licensed private security contractor agency, according to IDFPR.

Serendipitous photographs taken by CWBChicago editors, the public, and the Chicago Tribune show Walsh Security personnel handling assignments that A&T received tax money to perform.

CWBChicago first contacted Martino about A&T in early July.

“Thomas Walsh the police officer is not the business owner of A&T security," she replied. "Although we are not working with his firm, he has done a tremendous job in responding to crime issues for the businesses in [the 19th District] over the years.”

On August 1, we asked for Martino's help in understanding why Walsh Security personnel would show up to provide services that A&T received payment for. She has not responded.

“I'm not trying to avoid any of your question! [sic]” Walsh Sr. wrote on August 25. “I would really like to sit down with my son & daughter and yourself and show you how my son Tom Jr took the Illinois State Security Contractors test & PASSED!”

SSA #8 is highlighted in dark blue
Instead, we asked Walsh to simply send Tom Jr’s contractor license number so we could rectify the purported discrepancy with state regulators. He did not reply. Nor did A&T when we contacted them for the same information.

Contracting Prohibited

The taxpayer funds that A&T received via LVECC are called “Special Service Area” (SSA) taxes. The monies are raised through a special property tax assessment which is then entrusted to a local non-profit and mayorally-appointed commissioners for use in improving streetscapes, business conditions, and security.

SSA #8, which hired A&T, covers parts of Halsted, Broadway,  Belmont, Diversey, and Clark in the Lakeview East neighborhood.

City employees are strictly prohibited from having an ownership stake in any “contract, work, business or sale” paid with taxpayer funds. A Chicago Fire Department battalion chief made headlines in 2012 after the city learned that he had received more than $250,000 from North Side SSAs in exchange for snow plowing services over the course of three years.

Since Walsh Security LLC is owned by Thomas Walsh Sr, a city employee, it would be prohibited from taking on work funded by SSA tax money.

But neither A&T Security nor Walsh's children are licensed to provide security contractor services.

So, who showed up to perform the taxpayer-funded security work?

Walsh Security works at the Lakeview East Festival of the Arts in September 2016 | A Boy's Town via Facebook
The LVECC’s largest annual event is the Festival of the Arts, a weekend street festival held along Broadway each September. Last year, $10,995 of SSA #8's funds went to A&T for security services at the event.

Yet many of the security guards who worked that weekend were wearing Walsh Security identifiers. Why? Neither Martino, A&T, nor Walsh Security would say.

And in July 2016, the Chicago Tribune dispatched a reporter and photographer to Lakeview East for a story about SSA-funded security patrols.

Video and photographs that accompany the report show the LVECC security team to be comprised of armed guards who regularly work for Walsh Security.

Martino (l) and licensed armed security guard James Jurewicz in July 2016. | Chicago Tribune
The Tribune identifies one of the Lakeview East guards on duty that day as James Jurewicz, a licensed armed security guard who frequently patrols Boystown's nightlife district with a Walsh Security team that is paid for by the Northalsted Business Alliance using private money.

During a Boystown patrol in October 2015, Jurewicz was instrumental in the apprehension of a robbery offender. Police identified him in the arrest report as “JUREWICZ(AGENT FOR WALSH SECURITY), James.”

Guards working for SSA #8 in July 2016. | Chicago Tribune
Video accompanying the Tribune story also shows another armed guard working for the SSA. That man, who is also properly licensed by the state, often works as security at the Center on Halsted or the adjoining Whole Foods. Both establishments contract with Walsh Security for services, according to tax and court records. We are withholding the second guard's name as he apparently asked the Tribune not to publish it.

Walsh Sr (left); Cubs owner Tom Ricketts; and  Martino at Wrigley Field for the Aug 25 Lady Gaga concert | Facebook
Officer Walsh and Martino have a personal friendship, often grabbing dinner, drinks, and social events together according to acquaintances and social media postings. In a Freedom of Information Act response, the city said Martino reported that A&T business was never represented by the elder Walsh.

Same Thing Only Different

During our investigation, CWBChicago learned that Lakeview East's SSA is not the only local community group that is paying A&T for services that appear to be provided by Walsh Security.

This summer, a member of the Northalsted Business Alliance provided CWBChicago with information showing that the Boystown business group actually pays A&T Security—the unlicensed firm owned by Walsh’s children—for safety patrols along the Halsted Street bar strip. But, once again, guards who wear Walsh Security identifiers, including Thomas Walsh Sr himself, provide the services.

Unlike LVECC, Northalsted does not use any tax money to pay for its patrols and city employees would not be prohibited from contracting with them directly as long as the deal does not conflict with other city ethics laws. Northalsted stopped using SSA funds for security in 2014, the same year that A&T (or Walsh) began providing its patrol services, the group said in a FOIA response.

Northalsted security guards stand on Halsted Street this summer
On May 29, 2014, Scarlet bar owner Paul Cannella sent an email to Northalsted members. In it, he announced that the alliance had hired Officer Walsh’s company. But when the Alliance sent out a press release later that day, the company was identified as A&T and Walsh was not mentioned.

Why does a group of businesses pay an unlicensed security firm for services that are ultimately provided by an otherwise properly-licensed company? Canella referred all questions to Northalsted Executive Director Chad Honeycutt.

Honeycutt, alliance Director of Operations Eric Santiago; and Vice President Stu Zirin did not respond to multiple requests for information about the group’s security arrangements.

A source familiar with the Alliance's operations in 2014 said they believed A&T was used because "the Alliance was sensitive to the issues with Walsh and the possible conflict with [his work in the police department]."

CWBChicago reported this spring that Officer Walsh's position as the 19th District's police "business liaison" put him in the potentially conflicting position of handling complaints against companies that funded his private security patrols through Northalsted.

A sergeant now serves as the 19th District's business liaison and Walsh has been reassigned to handle court advocacy, the department said.

Silence

LVECC, the City, and Alderman Tom Tunney refused to provide contact information for SSA #8's politically-appointed commissioners. | City of Chicago screenshot
In preparation for this report, CWBChicago asked Martino and the city’s Department of Planning and Development to help us contact the politically-appointed commissioners of SSA #8 so we could learn more about how A&T was chosen to receive almost $60,000 for security services. Neither responded.

44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney, who recommended the commissioners for their appointments, also refused to put us in touch with the commissioners, all of whom are public officials.

We contacted Amanda Walsh and Tom Walsh Jr. five times at the email address on their company's invoices. We also contacted each of them twice on Facebook. They did not reply.
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