Governor George Ryan of Illinois is not known for his adept leadership so much as he’s known for how good he looks in his orange jumpsuit. But Gov. Ryan did do one thing: he took an interest in a young State Senator named Barack Obama, and lovingly included him in a program that allowed state legislators who needed to boost political support in their home districts the ability to hand out grants to community projects that might help ensure their continued employment.
Barack Obama secured approximately $100,000 from Ryan for the not-for-profit group, Chicago Better Housing Association, headed by one Kenny Smith on Chicago’s South Side, hell bent on turning the crime-ridden neighborhood around with the help of a botanic garden. The group had it’s eye on $1.1 million in state funds for a 6 and a half block “nature walk” under an El line, possibly to hide all of the broken glass and bullet casings.
Weirdly, the group Obama partnered with to beautify Englewood misused the cash – and the state has spent thousands more trying to clean up the mess.
◆ The housing association’s board had hired K.D. Contractors — owned by Smith’s wife, Karen D. Smith — as its subcontractor for the garden. The company, which the association claimed was the low bidder on the project, was to oversee construction including a $20,000 catch basin, $20,000 of drain tile and $18,600 of sewer pipe. But the only improvements on the garden site as of 2008 appeared to be that some trees had been cut down and a gazebo — which wasn’t part of the original grant agreement — had been built.
◆ Smith wrote $65,000 in checks from the grant proceeds directly to his wife, whom he later said hired another subcontractor to do the bulk of the work. He wrote another $20,000 in grant-related checks to his wife’s company, which has since gone out of business.
◆ The subcontractor identified by Smith, a man named Rodolfo Marin, told the Sun-Times in 2008 that his company, Marin Construction, did only about $3,000 of work at the site, leveling it with a Bobcat earthmover and cutting down trees.
The vacant lot the Housing Association said it would refurbish first was already a pile of garbage when Obama took office in 2008, and the project, which the Illinois Department of Commerce questioned way back in 2003 was already under investigation by Attorney General Lisa Madigan. In 2008, they got a letter from IDoC demanding that they return the $100K plus another $20K they’d gotten from a separate government agency, but like all community outreach projects under the supervision of government officials, the group claimed the state had no authority to request the funds back, especially given that “work had been completed” on the six block swath of vacant lots strewn with refuse. Perhaps they considered the artful placement of fast food bags a “community cooperative project” or something.
Except for one block which another group, the Sherwood Peace Association paid $10K to turn into a garden.
And you people elected this guy twice. To run your country.
[via Marathon Pundit]