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Group seeks to derail Civic Center contract

Friends of the Civic Center cites fraud claims tied to firm's 2005 hurricane damage restoration work in New Orleans.

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A group opposed to moving Evanston city offices is seeking to derail a relocation feasibility study contract over claims the city’s chosen contractor was involved in a fraud scheme in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The City Council voted Oct. 25 to award AECOM, an infrastructure consulting firm, a $367,000 contract to study the feasibility of relocating city facilities from the existing Civic Center and police/fire headquarters buildings.

In a letter to council members, Friends of the Civic Center cites a Tuesday New York Times story reporting that the Archdiocese of New Orleans had agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle a federal false claims act lawsuit related to repairs or replacement of some of its facilities after the storm for which AECOM had prepared estimates.

A Justice Department news release noted that there was no “determination of liability” as a result of the settlement. The settlement did not involve AECOM, which has previously said it intends to “vigorously defend” its work.

AECOM, a Fortune 500 firm, had revenues of $13.3 billion and 54,000 employees as of last year.

Good Jobs First, a non-profit that tracks corporate regulatory violations and lawbreaking, claims AECOM has been subject of more than 100 penalty findings over the past two decades.

However, Good Jobs First also claims violations by most of the other respondents to the city’s request for proposals for the contract, including Jones Lang LaSalle, Cushman & Wakefield and CBRE.

AECOM has been awarded a number of other contracts with city in recent years, including a lakefront corridor reconstruction project in 2009, a water systems vulnerability assessment and emergency response plan in 2019 and a water utility continuity of operations plan in 2021.

The Friends of the Civic Center letter to city officials is signed by John Kennedy, Emily Guthrie, Mary Rosinski, Brian Becharas and Jeff Smith.

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