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Commissioner backs off, Faustech payment approved

Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Daily Southtown
by Daniel Duggan

Several Cook County Board members backed off a plan to withhold money from a troubled contractor, saying Tuesday they believe the county got what it paid for.

But critics of County Board President John Stroger say they still have no confidence in the integrity of the county's minority business set-aside program and the office that oversees it.

"There have been material misrepresentations when it comes to this and I have no confidence in (the office of contract compliance)," said Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston).

Suffredin withdrew a proposal Tuesday to stop a $146,000 payment to Faustech Industries for computer services. The move was to make sure the county had leverage if the services were not provided.

After approving the payment in May, Suffredin was upset he was not told the company planned to drop out of the set-aside program and that the company has ceased doing business. He said Betty Hancock Perry, head of the county's contract compliance office, should have provided more information.

"I've since found out that, thank God, Faustech is not part of any ongoing contracts and the materials have been received," he said before withdrawing the action.

Faustech is owned by Faust Villazen, a Hispanic man who has donated to and golfed with county commissioners.

Though Faustech dropped out of the county's program, it was kicked out of Chicago's set-aside program because city officials say he acted as a broker, buying goods from manufacturers and reselling them to the city for a profit. Brokers are prohibited from the city program, but not the county program.

Stroger defended Cook County's business set-aside programs and Hancock Perry's work Tuesday. He told commissioners to stop "beating up on his staff."

"You keep saying you have no confidence in her," he said. "I bet I could find 10 people who worked for you and some of them will say they have no confidence in you."

He said allegations of wrong-doing are unfairly being placed only on the firms involved in the county's women- and minority-owned business program.

"Some of this seems racist to me," Stroger said. "We're talking about problems with brokers, but this didn't come into being until we started talking about distribution of contracts to groups that don't always get a lot of work."

Stroger said commissioners such as Suffredin are using the minority and women set-aside program as part of a campaign for to win the board presidency.

"This is nothing more than a political move," he said. "Come on, let's run this government, and when campaign time comes around, let's campaign."

Stroger would not answer questions about whether he will run for re-election.

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