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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Cynical Irony of Michael Scott

First, the Tribune is reporting that after an "exhaustive" investigation, the Olympic Committee has found that Michael Scott, one of its members, didn't have a conflict on interest when his company secured a land deal near the site of one of the Olympic venues.

Mayor Daley’s Chicago 2016 panel has no problem with committee member Michael Scott’s role developing a for-profit real estate project near a planned Olympic venue, according to a statement the organization released Tuesday night.

Scott met with Olympic bid officials Tuesday to explain his plan to develop residential and commercial units on city-owned land kitty-corner from the proposed Douglas Park cycling venue. Scott has said he was working on behalf of a group of West Side ministers, although his name alone appears on the venture’s incorporation papers. After the Tribune published an investigation Friday, Scott said he would take no profits or fees from the development.

The original story came out on Friday. That day, the Chicago Tribune reported that at the same time that Michael Scott was serving on the board of the Chicago Olympics bid he was also securing a land deal for his company near the site of one of the Olympic venues, Douglas Park. In other words, while Scott was in a position to know what areas would get sites for the Olympics, he secured a land deal near one of the sites. Now, after a full five days of investigation, the Olympic committee has found that Scott's action didn't involve any conflict of interest.

Now, the cynical irony of all this is that Scott is also a member of the Outreach Advisory Committee. This is the committee that is responsible for getting community groups on board. There's about 50 or so community groups that are now supporting the bid. These groups include the Chicago Rehab Network, North Kenwood-Oakland Community Conservation Council, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, the Chicago Business Minority Opportunity Center, and the Women's Business Development Center.

It was Scott, the not exclusively, that would reach out to these groups to convince them that a bid would be spread fairly so that the people they represent would see economic benefit. Keep in mind that Chicago is notorious for insider deals. Chicago is notorious for economic development going to those with connections. So, we can imagine that in getting many of these groups on board, this was likely a common concern.

So, think about that for a minute. At the same time that Scott was reaching out to the community, convincing women's, minority, and low income groups, that they would see economic benefit as well, he was also securing an economic benefit for himself using inside information. As such, while Scott was telling local community groups that they would see econmic benefit from the Olympics, what he wasn't telling them was that the line would start right behind him. The same person assuring the community that the Olympics wouldn't be for insiders only was securing an insider's deal. Talk about cynical irony.

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