Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My request to the IL Senate committee interviewing Gery Chico tomorrow about the Save-A-Life Foundation: Ask him if he supports an investigation by the Chicago Schools Inspector General

Gery Chico & Carol Spizzirri promote the Save-A-Life Foundation on Chicago TV (undated, likely 2003)

The Hon. Antonio Muñoz, Chairman
The Hon. Tim Bivins, Minority Spokesman
Illinois Senate Executive Appointments Committee

Dear Senators Muñoz and Bivins:

In June, the Chicago Sun-Times reported:
Former Chicago mayoral candidate Gery Chico’s appointment as chairman of the state Board of Education hit a snag Wednesday amid GOP questions over his ties to a now-defunct non-profit organization.

Based on issues raised by a Texas blogger, Senate Republicans put the brakes on Quinn’s appointment, asking that Chico personally appear before a Senate panel to explain his relationship with Save A Life Foundation, a charity that is undergoing a probe within Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office.
“To me, this is the biggest non-event there could be,” Chico said when asked about the wrinkle in his confirmation. “I’m happy to come down there and answer any questions.”
According to the senate website, Mr. Chico is appearing before your committee tomorrow morning. This is to request that today you review and share this information with your fellow committee members.

This is also to request that at tomorrow's hearing Mr. Chico be asked this question:
Do you think the Chicago Public Schools Inspector General should investigate whether $62,000 paid by the schools to the Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF) was properly administered?
Here's why.

First, according to this April 24, 2003 press release, Sunny Chico (who's identified as "a member of SALF's Educational Advisory Board") stated: 
My husband Gery (former President, Chicago Board of Ed.) was instrumental in bringing SALF to the Chicago Public Schools....

According to a November 2006 ABC Chicago I-Team report by Chuck Goudie (emphasis added):
One of Illinois' highest profile charities teaches the Heimlich maneuver to children while maneuvering the truth to get money from government and big business.

It's called the Save-A-Life Foundation and is known across Illinois as an organization that teaches schoolchildren how to respond in emergencies. For the past few years, Save-A-Life has received millions of dollars in government funds and corporate donations. An ABC7 I-Team investigation has uncovered a series of misleading claims and deceptive credentials that raise doubts about Save-A-Life's integrity, funding and training. 

Save-A-Life officials say they have taught the Heimlich maneuver and other first aid techniques to more than 1 million schoolchildren since 1995. They claim to have taught nearly 70,000 children how to save a life in the Chicago Public Schools this year alone. 

..."It's free to the children. We bring this course to schools for free," Spizzirri said.
But it wasn't free to the Chicago Public Schools, where officials say Save-A-Life charged them $50,000 the past two years.
Schools CEO Arnie (sic) Duncan says it seems unlikely that Carol Spizzirri's organization could have taught the number of students they claim....
From the October 11, 2009 Chicago Tribune:  
(Carol) Spizzirri launched a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching children emergency response techniques, raising at least $8.6 million in federal and state grants for her Save-A-Life Foundation. Firefighters and paramedics were recruited to offer instruction on how to apply CPR and stop bleeding and choking, said Spizzirri, who estimates 2 million children took the classes, many of them from the Chicago Public Schools.
From SALF's website, here's a list of hundreds of Chicago Schools where the organization claimed to have provided first aid training classes:

As any parent knows, every school activity generates paperwork. An extracurricular program of this nature using outside employees (firefighters and paramedics) would undoubtedly produce mountains of documents: student and teacher schedules, training materials, employee records, evaluations, and much more.

But in response to a federal court subpoena (filed by my attorney in Save-A-Life Foundation v. Baratz) and public records requests, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have failed to produce records for any training classes.

The only records CPS produced are a handful of SALF press releases and these 22 invoices showing that from 2000-2007, CPS paid SALF about $62,000:

Chicago Schools Inspector General James M. Sullivan informed me that his office had no statute of limitations re: investigating potential vendor fraud, so in January I submitted this request asking that he determine whether the $62,000 was properly administered:

Per the above information and the documentation below my signature, Mr. Chico (and his wife) were associated with and promoted SALF both during and after his years on the Chicago School Board. In my opinion, it should be him, not me, asking IG Sullivan to investigate SALF. If he's unwilling to assume that minimal degree of responsibility, it's unclear why your committee would entrust him to head the State Board of Education.

Therefore, to reiterate, at your hearing tomorrow I hope you'll take the opportunity to ask Mr. Chico this question: 
Do you think the Chicago Public Schools Inspector General should investigate whether $62,000 paid by the schools to the Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF) was properly administered?
Finally, records indicate members of your committee were associated with SALF. I'm unfamiliar with your protocol, but it may be appropriate to disclose the details at tomorrow's hearing. 

Thanks for your time and consideration. If you have any questions or would like additional supporting documentation, please don't hesitate to contact me.


Peter M. Heimlich
e-mail: pmh@medfraud.info
website: MedFraud
blog: The Sidebar

Meeting at which Gery Chico and other members of the Chicago Board of Education invited SALF into the schools (undated, probably late 1999):

(1:00) Spizzirri credits IL Sen. Walter Dudcyz for arranging a $600,000 Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA) grant "to bring this program to the schools of Chicago." Click here for a copy of the grant.

(1:20) Spizzirri: "We've trained over 5000 children since October in schools throughout the city. We have an additional one to 43,000 children to train by the end of June."

(4:30) Gery Chico indicates he's impressed with her claims.

(5:45) Spizzirri: "(My daughter) bled to death before the paramedics arrived." From Chuck Goudie's 2006 ABC7 report: 
But even that isn't true, according to police and hospital reports and an inquest by the Lake County coroner. The official record states that 18-year-old Christina Spizzirri was legally drunk at the time of the accident; and that after hosting a drinking party while her mother was vacationing in Florida, the teenager got behind the wheel and flipped her own car.
Police records show there was no hit-and-run, and even though the local police didn't know emergency first aid, the teenager did not die at the scene as Carol Spizzirri contends. Medical records state that Christina died 30 minutes after arriving at the hospital.
(8:30) Former SALF board member Carlos Azcoitia PhD appears. Recently when asked if SALF should be investigated, Dr. Azcoitia, who serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Northeastern Illinois University wrote, " I agree that if there is any suspicion of financial impropriety, it should be investigated thoroughly." Click here for a copy of his e-mail.

(9:00) Chico: "I don't think we can afford to do anything but do this (SALF program).

May 26, 1999 Chicago School Board Resolution signed by Gery Chico & Paul Vallas claiming SALF had trained many thousands of CPS students:

In 2002, Chico was listed as a member of a SALF committee that produced a Pre-EMS White Paper:

The next year: