The last time the Chicago public school system agreed to lease some of its school parking lots to a company that then billed people for parking there at nearby sporting events, things didn’t end well. .
The heavyweight company that made the deal for nearly a decade continued to charge for parking at those school parks, but stopped paying, according to CPS. He sued the company – which, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, had a convicted child sex offender parking cars for a Cubs game while children played nearby on the school’s busy playground.
Shortly after CPS took legal action, the owner of the company was indicted in an unrelated federal bribery case.
So CPS looked for someone else who would pay to get this lucrative business. Several heavy companies wanted to enter.
But the one CPS chose, Premium 1 Parking Inc., owes the city tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes and fines, has been in arrears for three years, and does not have all the required business licenses, according to archives.
Under Premium 1 Parking’s current contracts with CPS, which went into effect on April 1, the company agreed to pay around $ 13,000 per month to use 10 school grounds near Wrigley Field and other busy neighborhoods.
City’s licenses of Premium 1 for valet and garage parking – required to use school grounds – have been placed “on hold” by the Ministry of Commercial Affairs and Consumer Protection of the city on April 30. The city says that means the company won’t be able to renew those licenses or get new ones until its debts are paid.
And city inspectors cited Premium 1 in March for “operating without the required public garage permit” in 10 schools.
In December, city officials agreed to put Premium 1 on a 24-month payment plan to reimburse $ 45,000 it owed for unpaid taxes and valet parking fees resulting from 52 administrative violations dating back to 2018. – including the fee for bouncing checks twice used to pay the city.
But other than a payment of $ 20,000 on Dec. 14, owner Dylan Cirkic didn’t make any of the $ 1,000 a month payments he had accepted, according to city hall. This is what sparked his company’s latest licensing issues.
“No other payment has been made beyond the initial down payment,” said Kristen Cabanban, spokesperson for Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s legal department.
Cirkic, who launched Premium 1 in 2016, disputes that he is in arrears with the town hall, saying, “I don’t owe any money.”
The CPS still allowed its business to charge people up to $ 40 as recently as Monday to park on school property during a Cubs home game.
But Cirkic’s company owes CPS “approximately $ 23,000 in rental fees, plus late fees and applicable revenue charges,” after missing payments in April and May after paying a total of $ 77,300 to 10 CPS schools before that, according to schools spokesperson James Gherardi.
Gherardi says that CPS could drop Premium 1 after June 10 if it doesn’t pay and then “launch a bidding process for the rental of parking lots to ensure that schools have the highest potential sources of income. possible ”.
He says that CPS “was not aware of any serious concerns with the supplier when they entered into their deal. And when discussing the refund, the seller misled the district and provided false information regarding their accounting, which is totally unacceptable. “
For more than a decade, SCP has enabled principals to generate additional funds for their schools by renting out their parking lots and auditoriums for use when school is not in session and children are not in their buildings. . Each school can keep the money it earns, with the agreements all approved by the central school system office in the city center.
Leases can be lucrative for schools near ballparks and United Center – areas typically wealthier and whiter than the city as a whole.
Other schools have obtained smaller payments by renting space for nearby restaurants and churches.
During the 2010s, the company that leased the most school grounds was Blk & Wht, a company owned by James T. Weiss – who is the former son-in-law of Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios and a friend of the Daley family – and Iman Bambooyani, who also operated the Raw Bar near Wrigley Field.
Blk & Wht had contracts for car parking at no less than 11 schools, agreeing to pay $ 2.1 million from April 2018 to the end of 2020 – including $ 1.1 million to just one school, InterAmerican Elementary Magnet School, near Wrigley Field.
On a Cubs game day in July 2018, Sun-Times reporters discovered a convicted child sex offender parking cars on inter-American land adjacent to the school’s playground, which was crowded with children playing.
Then, in April 2019, Blk & Wht stopped paying to use lots at three schools closest to Wrigley Field, according to CPS, which filed a lawsuit.
On November 19, 2019, Weiss told CPS that he would no longer park the cars on school property, breaking his contract – but he continued to park the cars on one of the school grounds for a while. additional month, according to the CPS trial.
Weiss broke his contract six days after his offices were raided by federal authorities as part of an investigation into then-state representative Luis Arroyo, a Chicago Democrat who was later charged with ‘paying a bribe to then-State Senator Terry Link to support legislation to legalize video game machines in cities that ban such games of chance.
Weiss – which also owns Collage LLC, which operates video terminals known as raffle machines – was lobbying state and city authorities to legalize these machines.
Weiss has since been indicted, charged with bribing Arroyo. He pleaded not guilty.
With his lawsuit against Weiss’s company still in court, CPS says Blk & Wht owes him around $ 366,000.
InterAmerican used to count on hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by renting out its parking lot and the garage it shares with the Chicago Police Department’s 19th District station on Addison Street. The school was receiving $ 381,000 a year which it used to hire additional teachers, according to Carolina Barrera-Tobón of the local InterAmerican School Board.
“The effects of these no longer available funds continue to harm our community,” says Barrera-Tobón. “These parking funds have always been used to fill additional ‘special’ positions and a climate and culture position.”
Eager to maintain parking revenues for its schools, the CPS solicited bids for 11 lots shortly before the coronavirus pandemic hit and wreaked havoc on the economy.
CPS’s purchasing department told potential bidders to certify that they “are not late or in default with CPS” and that they would pay the costs of required insurance, background checks and municipal permits.
In February 2020, Premium 1 came up with the biggest bid by far to win the parking contract – at least $ 800,000 to cover the period from March to December.
Among the other seven bidders who attempted to secure the parking business from CPS was LAZ Parking, which signed the city’s parking meter contract.
Another company, One Parking, was offered the Inter-American School Contract at one point, according to the local Inter-American School Board. But the CPS canceled that deal and other school rentals after COVID closed schools and “decimated the sports and restaurant parking market and was particularly devastating near Wrigley Field,” Gherardi says. “We are looking for much more limited licenses in the short term until the market improves.”
Cirkic and his attorney William J. Didier said in documents filed with his submission that Premium 1 parked cars at Hawthorne Elementary School in Lakeview in 2017 and 2018.
In addition to leasing school grounds, Premium 1 also handled valet parking at expensive Loop and River North restaurants and Barney’s until the pandemic permanently closed the luxury department store adjacent to the Magnificent Mile.
Parking deals with private companies caused problems for Premium 1. In 2019, city inspectors cited the company for engaging in “a deceptive practice of offering / driving valet parking at 15 E Oak St. for Barneys New York to consumers without first obtaining the mandatory valet parking permit from the City of Chicago. ”
According to city records, Premium 1 also parked cars elsewhere without having valid city licenses or insurance and illegally parked a customer’s Lexus in a towing zone at 338 W. Belden Ave. while running valet parking at 2300 N. Lincoln Park West for a nearby restaurant.
Premium 1 parking agents have also been accused, according to city records, of showing city inspectors licenses or expired licenses from competitors they previously worked for.
In 2019, his employees outside restaurants in the Italian village of the Loop were cited for claiming to work for a company called Priority Parking.
The fines have piled up. Twice when Premium 1 attempted to pay, its checks bounced.
Still, CPS has stuck with Premium 1, even though when school officials negotiated new parking deals last September, they agreed to accept around $ 13,000 a month for 10 schools – far less than the $ 84,000 per month that Premium 1 offered to pay before the pandemic. .
From April 1 to June, school officials allowed Premium 1 to extend its contracts, even though the company’s parking licenses were suspended for not having made the monthly payments since December that it had agreed to make to the town hall as part of its payment plan.