Ex-mayoral candidate Willie Wilson wants City Hall coronavirus deals; Lori Lightfoot says no

Ex-mayoral candidate Willie Wilson wants City Hall coronavirus deals; Lori Lightfoot says no

Willie Wilson. | Sun-Times file

Mayor says she wouldn’t agree to Wilson’s demand for cash payment upfront: ‘Millions of dollars in cash is not something I’m ever going to do with taxpayer dollars.’

Former mayoral candidate Willie Wilson said Monday he unsuccessfully tried to get Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker to buy surgical masks and respirators from his medical supply company.

“It’s a shame that they have to let the city of Chicago and the state suffer like this when I’m right here,” said Wilson, who says his Omar Medical Supplies had a stockpile of more than 30 million masks in Chicago at one point during the pandemic.

Lightfoot confirmed she that she spoke with Wilson weeks ago and referred his request to her top procurement official.

She said she learned the city’s stockpile already contained the items Wilson was pitching and that the lead time for Wilson to deliver was weeks longer than other companies’.

One other problem, according to the mayor: Wilson was demanding money up front and in cash.

“Millions of dollars in cash is not something I’m ever going to do with taxpayer dollars,” Lightfoot said.

Wilson denied demanding to be paid in cash.

“I don’t do business in cash,” he said. “I needed the money paid up front so I could pay my people in China.”

He said city officials never asked for details on what he could supply or about pricing.

“She wasn’t truthful,” Wilson said of the mayor’s comments Monday.

Wilson said last week his foundation was donating masks to Mount Sinai Hospital and six community organizations. He also donated masks to the Chicago police and fire departments.

City Hall has issued more than $65 million in contracts for COVID-19 related goods and services, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Sunday. The mayor’s emergency declaration allows contracts of up to $1 million to be approved without city council approval.

According to the mayor’s office, contracts must include the participation of minority- or women-owned and operated businesses — and Lightfoot sent letters to contractors reinforcing that.

In late March, the city contracted with The Howard Elliott Collection, an Addison furniture company, to provide $300,000 in medical face shields and 1 million surgical masks to “supplement the city’s stockpile” of personal protective equipment for first-responders.

The contracts, which the city posted on its website after the Sun-Times story was published, are for a combined total of $1.37 million, city records show.

Wilson unsuccessfully ran for mayor last year. Omar Medical Supplies imports latex gloves and other medical supplies. He also has owned McDonald’s franchises.

Wilson said his medical supply company isn’t looking to “gouge” the government or make a fortune during the pandemic.

He said he wants to be paid up front at a rate of 80 cents each for three-ply surgical masks and $5 each for KN95 respirators.

Wilson’s endorsement of Lightfoot after he lost in the primary in last year’s mayoral race helped her trounce Toni Preckwinkle in the general election.

Last summer, Wilson complained that his calls to Lightfoot since the election had gone unreturned. When he tried to reach the mayor to talk about his proposed slave reparations ordinance, Wilson said Lightfoot sent him a text saying she’s “too busy running the city to call me back.”

A spokesman for Pritzker didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last week, Illinois state Comptroller Susana Mendoza released records showing the state had spent about $174 million on COVID 19-related goods and services, mostly for personal protective equipment. Last week, the governor’s office said the state had chartered planes to airlift supplies from China to Illinois “in the coming weeks.”

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