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The Sun-Times Digs Up Gery Chico's Past

By Kevin Robinson in News on Jan 11, 2011 2:30PM

Photo via Gery Chico's Facebook.
Gery Chico launched his first campaign ad yesterday, as he snagged the endorsement of 4th District Congressman Luis Gutierriez. Meanwhile, the Sun-Times dug up an article it published in 2003, when Chico was running for the Senate seat that Barack Obama ultimately won. Back then, Chico was touting his business experience as a chairman of the Chicago law firm Altheimer & Gray. That quickly turned into a liability for the mayor's former school chief, as the firm went under in the summer of 2003, closing after 88 years in business, leaving hundreds unemployed.

At the time, the weak economy was blamed for the firm's collapse. But as the finger-pointing escalated in Altheimer & Grey's demise, Chico's role as chairman became part of the narrative for the firm's demise. “The firm ended up where it was," $24 million in debt and saddled with high-priced, underutilized attorneys, "because of a combination of mismanagement and malfeasance, a lack of character and team effort,” one former partner told the paper. “There was a self-serving club of leadership at the top.” Another partner told the Sun-Times that “Chico pretty much abandoned his post,” adding “he was supposed to be chairman of the firm. He stopped. His department fell apart. His business went way down.”

This time around, Chico is playing up his heritage as a hard-working Chicagoan with deep roots in the city, and his connection to Chicago's Latino community. Gutierrez said as much in his endorsement. "My reason is simple. Gery Chico is the most qualified candidate for mayor," Gutierrez said. "He doesn't need any on-the-job training." But City Clerk Miguel del Valle, who is also running for mayor, accused Chigo of being an insider. "A well-funded, highly connected insider can neither fix the budget nor halt corruption," del Valle told the Tribune. "It takes proven competence and strong ethics, and I will bring both to City Hall."

As the Tribune noted, bad business deals in the past don't seem to bother Chico. When asked about Gutierrez's connections to convicted developer Calvin Boender, who loaned Gutierrez $200,000, Chico said "I've known this man for many, many years and we've worked on a lot of things together going back to education and I'm proud to have his endorsement," and that he hasn't seen anything about the case of any "real consequence" that mattered to him. The election is February 22.