CHICAGO — Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) spent close to $37,000 from the political action committee fund of City Council’s Progressive Reform Caucus on “questionable” expenditures, according to filings with the state board and caucus Chairman Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd).
That included $13,160 he took from the committee’s fund for himself.
Muñoz, who was dropped from the caucus in January after being charged with misdemeanor domestic battery, has repaid $24,900, Waguespack said in a statement, and is expected to reimburse the committee in full.
Members of the caucus discovered the discrepancy in January and notified the state board of elections on Monday. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx was also alerted by aldermen “of this inappropriate use of our funds.”
“It was all a misunderstanding,” Muñoz told The Daily Line, adding that he had apologized. Aside from a brief visit to City Hall to testify in favor a tax break for Hilco Development, Muñoz has been largely absent while undergoing rehabilitation.
“I will be paying it back,” he said before hanging up.
Ed Mullen, the Progressive Caucus’ PAC’s attorney, said Muñoz was the only person with access to the account, according to a letter to state officials.
After Muñoz was voted out of the caucus in January after his wife told police he struck her while intoxicated, no one else could access the committee’s bank accounts, and after “repeatedly” contacting Muñoz, they received access on March 19, 2018.
After a review, “it became apparent that unauthorized expenditures were made,” Mullen wrote. The committee has amended its reports to state officials and is “sending a letter to Alderman Muñoz demanding full reimbursement to CPRC PAC for personal expenditures.”
“He has been removed as an officer of the Progressive Caucus PAC, and we are working with our bank to remove him from having access to our account,” Waguespack said. “Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) is now treasurer of our political action committee. In the new term beginning in May 2019, Caucus members will elect new officers, in compliance with our bylaws. We will also work together as a group to implement stronger new financial controls to ensure full compliance and transparency for all funds related to the Progressive Caucus.”
Besides the $13,160 he paid himself, and $2,800 he improperly transferred to his “Citizens for Muñoz” committee, amended state reports indicate the following “unauthorized expenditures” made by Muñoz:
- $14,800 for Alta Vista Graphics in May 2018
- Roughly $1,800 at Nuevo Leon Restaurant in June 2018
- $1,070 to Cesar Campa in October 2018
- Close to $550 to Southwest Airlines in November 2018
- Approximately $400 at La Scarola Restaurant in September 2017
- Approximately $290 at the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Airport in November 2018
- More than $250 at Eddie V’s, a seafood and jazz restaurant in Pittsburgh, and close to $150 at Saputo’s in Springfield
CFO Compliance, the Rhode Island-based firm that was supposed to audit the committee’s accounts, has also been fired, Waguespack said, “as it remains unclear why they did not notice or proactively alert us to this problem.”
Waguespack, whose name has been floated as a potential chairman of the Finance Committee should Lori Lightfoot win on Tuesday, said he “should have monitored this situation more vigorously, and I regret having placed too much trust in my longtime colleague Ald. Muñoz and CFO Compliance to handle these matters.”
“I have always prided myself on a high level of integrity, diligence and attention to detail when it comes to our City finances, and I take responsibility for not having applied the same level of meticulousness with the Progressive Caucus PAC,” Waguespack said.
In July 2018, Muñoz announced he would leave his post as alderman after 25 years in office. Muñoz was first appointed to the City Council by Mayor Richard M. Daley in 1993.
In the race to replace him in the 22nd Ward, Muñoz threw his support behind Democratic Committeeman and now-Alderman-elect Michael Rodriguez.
If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence, please call The National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).”