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A controversial day labor business was shut down by Forest Park’s building department last week after opening up shop without a business license from the village.

The business, Remedial Environmental Manpower (REM), opened Thursday at 7501 Roosevelt Rd., alongside Washington Mutual Bank.

After REM placed a paper sign on the storefront’s front door last thursday, representatives from the village’s building department were alerted about the business and by Friday it was shut down.

According to Village Administrator Michael Sturino, the village found that the business was operating without a license, although it had applied for one the same week.

“All I know is that they applied for a business license and before one was issued they opened. We had the appropriate personnel advise them that they needed to close down,” said Sturino.

A sign has been posted on the door of the Roosevelt Road facility directing all employees to report to REM’s Chicago headquarters on Halsted Street.

Sturino said that REM’s application for a license is currently under review. He said that the village was researching whether the proposed use of the property is appropriate for Roosevelt Road under the village’s zoning regulations.

“We’re looking at the application, and we will ensure that before anything opens they follow procedure,” he said.

REM has operated another facility in town, at 806 Beloit Ave. just south of Harrison Street for several years. Still, Sturino said that the new facility presents a different set of issues.

“It appears the business on Roosevelt is more intense than the current use on Beloit. They call for dispatching and assembly of workers (on Roosevelt). They did not do that on Beloit ” it’s more of a pure office use.”

The building on Roosevelt Road is owned by the Cacciatore and Co. real estate company. Representatives from that company, as well as from the REM facility on Beloit, could not be reached for comment.

Company involved in Chicago scandals

REM has received much attention over the last few years for its role in the city of Chicago’s minority contracting scam.

Owner James Duff pleaded guilty in 2005 to racketeering and fraud, among other charges, admitting that he had falsely presented his companies as minority and woman owned in order to receive city contracts set aside for such businesses.

An investigation by the IRS, FBI and US Department of Labor alleged that the scam had allowed Duff-owned businesses to obtain over $100 million in contracts from the city of Chicago since 1990, according to numerous reports.

According to a Sept. 25, 2003 Chicago Tribune article, REM received a contract to run the city’s “Blue Bag” recycling program after William E. Stratton, an African American associate of the Duff family, posed as its owner.

Another Duff-owned company involved in the scam was Windy City Maintenance Inc., which was purported to be owned by Duff’s elderly mother, Patricia Green Duff.

According to Commissioner Patrick Doolin, a Patricia Green was listed as the business owner on REM’s application for a business license with the village, while a person named Ellen Duff was listed as a secretary.

Records from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office still list Stratton as the company’s president, while Green is listed as its secretary.

James Duff was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison last year, while charges against his mother were dropped because she was suffering from Alzheimers, according to a Chicago Tribune report on Jan. 28. Stratton was also sentenced to over five years in prison.

Campaign contributions arouse suspicions

James Duff was also the vice president of Local 3 of the Liquor and Allied Workers Sales Division union, while his brothers Patrick and John III were trustees of the union’s health and welfare fund, according to Tribune reports.

The union has made three donations, totaling $1,000, to Mayor Anthony Calderone’s Citizens for Anthony Calderone campaign fund between July and October of 2005, heightening the suspicions of Doolin.

“The question is why did this company not feel the need to follow procedure (in opening the Roosevelt Rd. business),” he said.

Calderone called the suggestion of a kickback “absolutely ridiculous,” stating that “this is just another political ploy by Commissioner Doolin, and it’s irresponsible behavior.” He said that he did not know who operated Local 3, and was unaware that they had donated to his campaign.

“I have a committee, Citizens for Calderone, and there are a lot of people that donate campaign funds ” whether they donated or not, I couldn’t tell you,” he said.

Calderone also noted that the previously existing REM business had been in town long before any campaign contributions were made.

Doolin questioned Calderone’s assertion that he does not know who donates to his campaign fund. “He pretends Citizens for Calderone is some multinational conglomerate operating in some off shore location ” he’s the mayor of a town of 16,000,” he said.

Calderone said that he holds fundraisers for his campaign each year, and “hundreds of people from all walks of life” show up and make contributions.

“I think when people see a mayor doing a good job for a community they want to be supportive of that community.”

Doolin dismissed this suggestion, stating that “I’d rather see legitimate entrepreneurs and business owners showing interest in Forest Park than a who’s who of federal investigations.”

Calderone said that he might consider having his committee turn away contributions that could arouse suspicions, but was reluctant to cater to the suspicions of “cynics.”

“Some people don’t agree with campaign contributions, but unless you’re independently wealthy, which I’m not, you can’t run an effective campaign ” that’s what we have fundraisers for,” he said.