In the 19th Century, Yankee business owners often included the proscription “No Irish Need Apply” in Help Wanted ads. According to the era’s prejudices, the Irish were alcoholics with poor work ethics who couldn’t be trusted to stay sober long enough to finish a job.
The Irish overcame that sentiment to take over many of America’s big cities, including this one. And now they’ve figured out a way to overcome another “No Irish Need Apply” proscription. This one guarantees city business to women and minorities, to prevent the Irish from using their domination of municipal government to also dominate municipal contracts.
According to an investigative report by the Sun-Times and the Better Government Association, Windy City Electric -- allegedly run by sisters-in-law Nancy and Kathleen McMahon -- has done more than $10 million in city work over the last five years, even though it’s a reportedly a front for their husbands, brothers John and Anthony McMahon.
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley and Ald. Edward Burke are involved in this Irish swindle, too.
Now, Joseph Ferguson, the city of Chicago’s inspector general, is urging Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration to permanently ban Windy City, its owners and their husbands from doing any more work for the city. Ferguson says that, eight years ago, the sisters-in-law falsely claimed they were the operators of Windy City so they could be certified by the city as a woman-owned business enterprise. That made them eligible for city work set aside for women-owned businesses.
Among those city jobs: City records show they were supposed to get $100,000 as a subcontractor on a project to install wireless Internet service — Wi-Fi — at Chicago’s two airports as part of a deal that ultimately paid Daley son Patrick Daley $708,999. But Windy City lawyers say the company was never involved in that project.
The report claims McMahon brothers also enlisted a Latino partner to front an electrical company that received minority contracts, and have made payments of $5,000 or more each of the last two years to business associate Daniel Hebert, whose wife, Michelle Murphy, is a top aide to Burke’s Finance Committee. Murphy is the daughter of former Congressman Morgan Murphy, who represented the South Side in Congress from 1971-1981 and is now on the Cook County Board of Zoning Appeals.
With that kind of clout, the McMahon brothers were allowed to keep doing business with the city, even after they were caught using their wives as a front. They just have to subcontract some of their work to women- and minority-owned firms.
This is why it’s now impossible to keep the Irish out of power. They’re all related to each other.
Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!