Free Garbage Service Cost Chicago Taxpayers $6.6 Million Per Year

Something smells.

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Well, this is garbage: Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson has detailed a decade of improper and illegal clout-fueled clean-up by the Department of Streets and Sanitation costing taxpayers nearly $6.6 million per year.

Ferguson's brand-new audit reveals that the department provided free city garbage service to 1,839 apartment buildings on an outdated "grandfather" list as well as to 1,393 nonprofit organizations. Tallied up, the freebie trash removal drained the city of $3.2 million per year (for the apartments) and $3.3 million (for the non-profits).

According to Crain's Chicago Business' Greg Hinz, recipients of the no-pay perk include hundreds of churches, Chicago's Habitat for Humanity branch, the Hyde Park Art Center and the ward offices of 27 City Council members. Among them: alderman Rick Munoz, Ed Burke and Tom Tunney of the 44th Ward, who told Hinz his office's landlord removes most of the garbage while the city collects recyclables in a set-up that rolled over from the tenure of his predecessor, Bernie Hansen.

Ferguson said Streets and San could not trace the origins of the list of those exempt from pay-for-pickup.

"There is no documentation setting forth the legal authority for this service or the criteria or procedures for providing and tracking it," he wrote.

The department, meanwhile, said it "followed a long-standing policy" and was "entitled to deference in interpreting and administering its own ordinance."

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