Exclusive: Department of Aviation COO Resigns After Controversy Over Residency

One of Chicago’s top aviation officials has resigned after NBC 5 Investigates began asking questions about where he lived.

Kieran Sheridan has held a top post in the city's Department of Aviation since 2017, making more than $175,000 each year as the department's Chief Operating Officer and Chief Development Officer.

Earlier this year, NBC 5 Investigates received a tip that Sheridan was not complying with the city's strict residency requirements, which mandate that all of its employees must make their primary homes within Chicago city limits.   

According to sources, Sheridan was actually living with his family in far-west-suburban Naperville.

In an initial phone call, Sheridan insisted to NBC 5 that his main residence was in a modest apartment building on the city's Northwest Side, close the department's office near O'Hare Airport.  He said he was living separate from his family.

However, when NBC5 Investigates sent a letter to Sheridan at that Chicago address, it was returned two weeks later, marked "return to sender."

NBC5's political reporter Mary Ann Ahern then visited the Chicago apartment and confirmed with building managers that Sheridan did, indeed, pay rent on an apartment there.  The managers accompanied Ahern as she slid a second letter from NBC 5 under Sheridan's apartment door, where she observed other papers stuffed in the door which had not yet been retrieved.

NBC 5 Investigates searched public databases and uncovered several documents which all pointed to Sheridan's residence in a Naperville subdivision called Windgate of Three Farms, including mortgage papers, a property deed, tax bills, incorporation records for an independent consulting company and a driving citation, all of which listed the Naperville residence as his home.

One document posed the question "will the [Naperville] property be the buyer's principal residence?" and Sheridan answered "yes" on the document. 

NBC 5 searched for any documents that pointed to any residence for Sheridan in Chicago, but found nothing.

After her visit to the apartment building, Ahern again reached out to Sheridan, who said he never received either of NBC 5's letters, but continued to insist that he lived in the Chicago apartment.

On two separate occasions over the last month, NBC 5 cameras recorded Sheridan leaving his Naperville home, each time wearing his Chicago Department of Aviation I.D. card around his neck. In both instances Sheridan then drove to his office at O'Hare. 

Once again, Ahern tried to contact Sheridan for comment, but was told he was "not in the mood" to talk.  Soon after, word came that Sheridan had submitted his resignation, effective immediately.

Sheridan's residency situation is not unique. NBC 5 Investigates combed through three-and-a-half years of investigations by local Inspectors General, and found 145 city employees who were caught living in suburbs all around the Chicago area and not, as they claimed, in the city. 

In all but three of those 145 cases, the employees were fired or compelled to resign.

Most, however, held entry-level or mid-level positions in city departments, or worked in other city agencies such as the Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Park District, or the City Colleges of Chicago. 

Sheridan's position (and salary), as Chief Operating Officer of a major city department, is much higher than any of the city employees disciplined in the scores of inspections reviewed by the Investigates team. 

City officials confirmed that it was the continuing questions from NBC 5 Investigates that caused Sheridan to resign his position.  When asked about Sheridan in a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot simply said that "the rules are the rules" concerning city residency.

In a letter to Department of Aviation employees, Commissioner Jamie Rhee acknowledged Sheridan's resignation. 

"Managing Deputy Commissioner Kieran Sheridan has resigned, effective immediately," the letter read. "Kieran's contributions to CDA and the larger aviation industry have been considerable, and I wish him well."

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