Pritzker’s toilet removal contractor gets nearly $9M in COVID-19 work
The contractor who removed toilets from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s mansion in a $331,000 property tax scandal received a nearly $9 million COVID-19 contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The contractor hadn’t worked with the Corps in 76 years.
The contractor who helped save Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker $331,000 in property taxes by removing toilets from a mansion was awarded nearly $9 million in a contract to convert an old Chicago-area hospital for use in the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. Department of Defense records show Bulley & Andrews was award nearly $9 million through a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contract to convert the old Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park into a COVID-19 care facility. The Corps last worked with the firm in 1944.
Bulley & Andrews also worked as subcontractors on a separate Corps project to reopen Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin. Both jobs were to increase the state’s hospital capacity for COVID-19 cases expected to overwhelm the health care system, but neither hospital site has been needed and the Corps has been criticized for the lack of transparency in awarding $1.7 billion in contracts nationally.
Bulley & Andrews was hired by First Lady M.K. Pritzker to remove toilets in order to have a mansion on Chicago’s Gold Coast deemed uninhabitable. The move saved the Pritzkers $331,000 in property taxes on the mansion they own next to their home. Once the investigation was over, M.K. Pritzker had the contractors reinstall a toilet in J.B.’s “hangout/meeting area.”
Cook County’s inspector general said removing the toilets was a “scheme to defraud” taxpayers. Pritzker paid the $331,000 in taxes when the scheme was exposed during the gubernatorial campaign, but the Pritzkers came under federal investigation for it.
The Pritzkers recently came under fire over another Bulley & Andrews project for $2.5 million to build a new home and outbuildings at their Kenosha County, Wisconsin, horse farm. According to an investigation by WFLD-TV, more than 20 construction workers, mostly from Illinois, were working on the project despite the governor’s stay-at-home order and the fact he has discouraged travel to other states, specifically Wisconsin, fearing it could increase the spread of the virus in Illinois.
“I drive by all the time and there’s at least 20, 30 trucks a day working on this place,” Mike Wendricks told WFLD-TV. “Which is great, keep people working. But you don’t want your Illinois residents working. I really don’t understand that.”
Pritzker defended it as essential work because the animals at his farm need care and because construction work is essential under his executive order. Pritzker’s farm is on the Wisconsin side of a road that makes up the state line.
Pritzker’s family investment firm, which he co-founded with his brother in 1996, owns stakes in at least two companies creating COVID-19 tests. Pritzker said he put his assets with the company into a blind trust when he became governor and would neither make decision nor know about current investments.
Harsh rules appear to be good for some, but not for everyone in Illinois.