Chicago parking-meter critic eyes US Senate

David Hoffman, Chicago’s inspector general, in June published a report criticising the city’s $1.15bn parking meter transaction as a ‘dubious financial deal’ – a claim disputed by both the mayor’s office and the city’s financial advisor on the deal, William Blair.

Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman, who has criticised the $1.15 billion long-term lease of Chicago’s parking meter system as a “dubious financial deal”, has resigned from his post to pursue a run for the United States Senate.

A person familiar with Hoffman’s plans confirmed his career move, which was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Sun-Times said the former federal prosecutor will enter the Democratic primary for the Senate. That contest, to be held 2 February 2010, will decide who will represent the Democratic ticket in the general election on 2 November.

The incumbent, Illinois Senator Roland Burris, also a Democrat, has previously indicated that he will not seek re-election.

In February, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley indicated that he would reappoint Hoffman to his post in October if Hoffman wished to stay on as inspector general. The endorsement was widely perceived as a luke-warm affirmation of Hoffman, given that the inspector general has released several reports critical of Daley’s administration.

David Hoffman

In June, Hoffman published a report arguing that, under Daley’s watch, the city leased its parking meter system for nearly $1 billion less than what it would be worth to Chicago over the term of the 75-year lease.

Hoffman also criticised the mayor’s office for not giving aldermen the opportunity to comment on and review the lease agreement prior to the bidding, calling it a “lack of transparency” on the part of the mayor’s office.

The report, which was vigorously criticised by Paul Volpe, chief of staff to Mayor Richard Daley, prompted Chicago aldermen to call a hearing on the valuation methodologies used for the deal.

During the hearing, held on 2 July, William Blair & Company, Chicago’s financial advisor on the deal, testified that the inspector general’s report, among other errors, over-estimated the cashflows from the parking system and used an inappropriately low interest rate to discount them in arriving at its valuation range of $1.7 billion and $2.56 billion, versus Blair’s indicative range of between $650 million to $1.2 billion.

Hoffman did not testify at the hearing.