The split between the United Neighborhood Organization and the UNO Charter School Network should come as no surprise for a political organization meant to protect the interests of machine Latino politicians and their cronies. If one follows UNO’s history and the players behind it, the split seems to be an operation to hide rather than to clarify.
For the wellbeing of UNO students in particular and Illinois taxpayers, it is time for Attorney General Lisa Madigan to open a criminal investigation about the fraudulent and clientelistic charges against UNO, its board directors and political supporters.
“The most outrageous crime that this political group committed is not against the investors, as the SEC ruled, but against the families who have entrusted their children education to UNO,” said Byron Sigcho, Pilsen Alliance board member and an academic who has dedicated much of his research to UNO’s corrupt activities with public funds.
UNO has been charged with corruption and fraud against its investors by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the federal financial watch dog. This is after Gov. Pat Quinn froze part of the $98 million in tax payers’ dollars UNO’s then cheerleaders provided them to build their political fiefdom. Wall Street investors then noticed that UNO’s pyramid scheme had started to collapse, decided to cut their losses and bring their case to federal authorities.
Before the scandal, Juan Rangel, UNO’s former CEO, was the darling of entrenched politicians eager to pander to the Latino community. Mayor Rahm Emanuel made Rangel his campaign co chair, and Speaker Mike Madigan showered UNO with record amounts of public dollars. In exchange, UNO families attended rallies, signed petitions, and even voted for political candidates that former executives like Juan Rangel or Ald. Danny Solis endorsed.
UNO’s separation from its precious charter schools is but another indication of serious problems in the organization. Ald. Solis, UNO’s founder and god father has tried to separate himself from the organization, but those who know UNO are well aware of his power in the organization. Even though Rangel and other high officers of the organization have been pushed out to protect the overall project, Ald. Solis long term associate and friend Phil Mullins remains to be the Chief Strategy Officer at UNO. At the end of the day, it matters little whether UNO is one or two organizations if the same characters remain running the show.
“An organization that is constantly making structural changes to hide public records cannot insure that its schools are properly functioning,” Sigcho said. “We demand the immediate release of all public records as advised by Attorney General Madigan, a public forum to explain the reasons to cut ties with its parent organization and how the charter network will move forward.”
Pilsen Alliance is a multi issue grassroots community organization working on behalf of Pilsen residents’ interests since 1998.
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Contact: PILSEN ALLIANCE – 1744 W. 18th St. – 312.243.5440