Official: Chicago’s Snow Command chief should be fired
By Fran Spielman Sun-Times Media March 29, 2011 8:48PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
The $142,464-a-year deputy commissioner of Streets and Sanitation who presides over Chicago’s Snow Command should be fired for using city employees to perform his personal errands on city time, Inspector General Joe Ferguson concluded.
Managing Deputy Commissioner Bobby Richardson is accused of ordering his underlings to pick up and deliver his cigars, have his personal car washed and keep the vehicle filled with gas.
The alleged abuses occurred over a period of months beginning in late 2009 and continued into early 2010. Informants allegedly tipped the inspector general, who documented the errands during surveillance of Richardson’s underlings.
Termination might seem like an overly harsh punishment for sending underlings on petty personal errands. But as managing deputy of the city’s third-largest department, Richardson was held to a higher standard.
The vehicle gassed and washed was provided to Richardson under the city’s shared lease program. More than 100 city managers share leasing, insurance and maintenance costs with the city and pay for their own fuel in exchange for being allowed to drive the vehicles for personal use.
Streets and Sanitation spokesman Matt Smith refused to say whether Commissioner Tom Byrne would follow Ferguson’s recommendation by firing Richardson.
“We cannot comment on any ongoing investigation or disciplinary matter,” Smith said. He warned that “public disclosure of any information” tied to a disciplinary case could “negatively impact the city’s ability to take the appropriate disciplinary steps.”
Richardson did not return repeated phone calls.
Richardson is a 32-year veteran city employee who is a protege of former Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Michael Picardi.
Picardi was swept out in a June 2009 housecleaning amid allegations of lavish snow removal spending, lax field supervision and continued personnel abuses. Richardson had served as Picardi’s first deputy and stayed on as managing deputy after Picardi’s ouster.
As Snow Command chief, Richardson was one of a handful of city employees responsible for the Blizzard of 2011 fiasco that left as many as 530 vehicles stuck for hours on Lake Shore Drive. Three accidents in 28 minutes — followed by ramp closures caused by high winds, drifting snow and whiteout conditions — kept Lake Shore Drive closed for 34 hours before a cavalcade of tow trucks removed the vehicles.