Mayor appoints new purchasing chief

Streamlining the city's certification process for minority businesses tops the to-do list of Montel M. Gayles, Mayor Richard M. Daley's new pick for chief procurement officer.

Daley and Gayles spoke about the need to make the department more efficient at a City Hall press conference today announcing Gayles' appointment.

"Montel is well-qualified to take on these challenges. In all his management positions, he has developed policies and procedures that have improved efficiency," Daley added.

Since July 2004, Gayles, 47, served as executive director of the Public Building Commission. There he directed planning, design and construction of more than $1.5 billion in public works projects for the city. As head of the PBC, Gayles saved the agency $2.5 million by reducing staff and outsourcing construction management responsibilities, according to a press release.

Gayles served as chief of staff at the Chicago Housing Authority from 2000 to 2004, where his responsibilities included procurement, as well as administration of the authority's $1.5 billion Plan for Transformation. Prior to that position, he served as deputy commissioner of the City of Chicago Department of Buildings.

The Department of Procurement Services provides support for 44 city departments and oversees the purchase of more than $2 billion annually in goods and services. It manages the city's Women and Minority Business Enterprise program (MBE), which has come under criticism in the last two years for the slowness with which minority businesses are certified.

In October, a group of black aldermen proposed privatizing the certification process and possibly the entire procurement department after it was revealed that only 8% of city-awarded contracts went to African Americans in 2007.

Daley stated that Chicago has led the way nationally in ensuring participation for women and minority contractors, but he also acknowledged the frustrations of critics of the MBE program.

"We must and we can do better, and in my conversations with Montel, I have told him how critical it is for us to keep moving forward in that area," said Daley.

Daley said he has asked the procurement services department to consider outsourcing the certification of businesses. Gayles will be looking at whether the certification process is too stringent, said the mayor.

"I assure you that I am committed to improving opportunities for minority and women owned businesses and to streamline processes in order to ensure that contracts are awarded in a fair and efficient manner," said Gayles.

Also at the press conference, the mayor continued to urge the governor and legislators in Springfield to produce a long-term funding solution for the state's mass transit system.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich called a special session of the General Assembly to address the transit crisis. On Jan. 20 deep cuts in service and fare hikes CTA riders take effect if funds are not located before then.

Daley rejected a suggestion Blagojevich made recently that the city might draw on some of the windfall from the lease of the Chicago Skyway to bolster mass transit.

"You don't take sales from your assets and use them for your budget," said Daley. "You only use them for infrastructure...that's only a stop gap measure."

Daley suggested that the governor consider privatizing the Illinois toll road.

"You can go and lease the toll road for billions of dollars," said Daley. "We'd like to work with them [the state] on using state assets. It's a state responsibility."

Daley also thanked the CTA unions for calling off a planned job action in late December and for extending their current contract, which includes concessions on pensions and healthcare, until Jan. 20.