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Park District Wines And Dines On City Dollar

By Sean Stillmaker in News on May 15, 2011 6:00PM


Urban renewal is a guiding mission for the Chicago Park District, but their attempts are becoming a costly burden on the urbanites. A joint investigation between the Better Government Association and Fox Chicago News found thousands of dollars charged to company credit cards for personal use.

The Park District Superintendent Chief of Staff, Shawn Schmidt, was suspended without pay after the investigations found taxpayers picking up a heavy tab for Schmidt's business trips.

In the last three years Schmidt has traveled on over 24 trips nationwide to park district conferences and meetings with other districts. These trips and lobbying efforts help generate federal dollars for the park district, Fox News reports.

But when Schmidt went on these trips he would stay at fancy hotels and lavish in expensive restaurants. A week's stay at the Hilton Embassy Row in Washington cost taxpayers over $3,139. One night’s dinner at Masa in Minneapolis cost $290. A car rental cost $775, but he couldn’t park it on his own. He dropped $115 on valet. The investigation does not report a total sum of what Schmidt charged.

The park district released a statement saying a number of personal charges on his government credit card could have been avoided, Fox News reports. Schmidt receives a $120,000 salary and a company car. He declined to be interviewed by Fox, but released a statement:

Anyone who sees the part of my job that involves travel as a 'perk' misunderstands the value of these trips to the park district and how much I dislike the rigors of work-related travel.

The Chicago Park District has been under the magnifying glass lately. In the last five months the joint investigations between the BGA and Fox Chicago News found:

Taxpayers Shouldered Chicago Park District Chief of Staff's Credit Card Charges: