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UNO chief steps down

Friday, Dec 6, 2013

* Sun-Times

Juan Rangel, longtime leader of the politically powerful United Neighborhood Organization, has stepped aside from his $250,000-a-year post as UNO’s chief executive in the wake of a scandal that cost the group millions of dollars in state funding and led to a federal investigation of its bond dealings.

The influential Hispanic community group operates the largest charter-school network in Illinois.

Rangel’s departure “by mutual agreement” with the board of the not-for-profit group is effective immediately, UNO officials said Friday.

Rangel had three family members on the UNO payroll. Sources said two of the relatives quit recently, including deputy chief of staff Carlos Jaramillo, Rangel’s nephew.

Reached by phone, Rangel hung up on a reporter.

* More

UNO has ties to some of the most powerful politicians in Illinois including Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, Ald. Ed Burke (14th) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose 2011 campaign Rangel co-chaired. He currently sits on the Public Building Commission of Chicago’s board of commissioners and helped found the Metropolitan Leadership Institute (MLI), a group that prepares young Hispanic professionals for careers in politics and government, and corporate and nonprofit arenas.

Rangel became CEO of UNO in 1996 and spurred its aggressive growth into the largest charter school network in Illinois with 11 schools under its charge. An ongoing Sun-Times investigation into how it awarded contracts related to a $98 million grant to build three new schools revealed bids were won by companies owned by the brothers of former UNO executive Miguel D’Escoto. The two companies, Reflection Windows Co. and d’Escoto Inc., were paid $8.5 million from that grant. D’Escoto resigned in February but Reflection Windows continues to receive business from the group.

Part of the focus of the SEC’s investigation into UNO’s bond dealings focuses on one of the underwriters of the bonds. Cabrera Capital Markets is a company owned by Martin Cabrera Jr., who resigned as UNO board chairman in September. Cabrera was on the board for only 3-½ months. Gov. Quinn has twice suspended paying out the remainder of the grant to UNO.

Rangel previously stepped down as UNO chairman in May but retained his CEO role. He’ll now be replaced by interim chief of operations Jesse Estrada.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


9 Comments
  1. - Capital M - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 10:54 am:

    Unfortunate that it came to this. Probably long overdue. Only one that wins in this is CTU and Karen Lewis. Hopefully, the board will look to reorganize and bring on reputable members with high standards and focus on running a charter school program.


  2. - Liberty First - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 10:59 am:

    Public schools are not failing - look at the graduation requirements and you’ll see standards are far higher than 30 years ago. Is it any surprise people can’t cut it?

    Republicans need to stop being naive about the influences of politicians on private and public groups. Look what they have done to pension funds and universities.


  3. - 47th Ward - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 11:02 am:

    This UNO saga reminds me of the movie Casino. You knew, sooner or later, they were going to mess up what had been a pretty lucrative operation. I just can’t figure out if Rangel is Ace Rothstein or Andy Stone.


  4. - KGB - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 11:09 am:

    Agree with 47th. Had to happen if they were going to have any chance of getting out from under this. Should have happened within the first few weeks of the scandal– they could have been past this by now.

    Oh, one other suggestion: stop being greedy. Don’t take the advice of Commissioner Moreno, who famously was caught on tape saying “I don’t want to be a hog. Hogs get slaughtered. I want to be a pig.” Don’t be either. They all get slaughtered.


  5. - Whalewatcher - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 11:28 am:

    It was just a matter of time. Indictment next.. Latino sell-outs always fall…Chuy Garcia was right about that bunch all along


  6. - wordslinger - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 11:55 am:

    A $250K salary for the CEO, bond work for the chairman, $98 million in contracts (that we know of) for friends and family.

    Such is the life in a charter school “non-profit.” It’s all about the children, taxpayers.

    Anyone eyeballing the contracts at Noble?


  7. - Rod - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 12:50 pm:

    This is not just a real problem for Mr. Rangel and the politicians he was associated with it could also be a problem for the major Illinois community development financial institution (CDFI)called the IFF (see http://www.iff.org/about-iff). The IFF helped UNO float several loans for projects and the SEC investigation could also find that the IFF did not exercise due diligence in relation to loans and projects it was involved in.


  8. - Statesman - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 12:59 pm:

    “Chuy Garcia was right..” Only thing Garcia has been right about is how far LEFT his political protege Lozano and his so called IVPO group is. This group sees unionizaton and ‘progessivism’ as the solution everything. Ideologues. We have enough of that on Pennsylvania avenue in DC.


  9. - Just The Way It Is One - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 4:17 pm:

    Rothstein, Stone, hogs, pigs…nice try at stretching comparisons–the real point is nobody needs to have their heads examined to figure out the basics here: RANGEL did what was necessary in this ugly situation and it’s about time…!


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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