Chicago Cracks Down on Shoddy Contractors After Firefighter's Death

Building contractors who do unauthorized or shoddy work would face progressive discipline — ranging from a freeze on permits to license suspension or revocation — under a mayoral crackdown to prevent a repeat of the tragedy that killed a 42-year-old Chicago firefighter.

Chicago FirefightersThe crackdown proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel was advanced Wednesday by the City Council’s Zoning and License committees. It would subject electrical, plumbing and general building contractors to a progressive system of discipline that includes three levels: a freeze on permits, license suspension and license revocation.

“What was so frustrating is that we had a general contractor who pulled a permit to do minor work but was actually doing major structural changes,” Building Commissioner Judy Frydland said Wednesday about the warehouse where Capuano died.

“We didn’t really have the tools to go after this general contractor. . . . There really wasn’t a way that was efficient and to the point to be able to stop him from pulling additional permits and doing more work in the city.”

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), whose downtown ward is a bevy of construction activity, said there are developers who “actually encourage contractors to do unpermitted work and make it part of their business model.”

“The department will come out and issue the appropriate penalties and stop-work orders. And then, we’ll find . . . a new contractor has been brought onto the job site to continue to do unpermitted work. And it turns into this kind of carousel of unpermitted work,” Reilly said.

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