And so it did, years later. The taxpayers got only half their money back, and of course they continued to get contracts from the Chicago Way machine for some time:In 2004, Whitaker’s department and the Illinois Department of Human Services gave Working for Togetherness $150,000 to raise awareness about AIDS in African-American communities by driving around and providing HIV test kits and information.The 2003 Hummer — which Working for Togetherness bought used in July 2004 — included elements of “‘Ghetto Fabulous’ and/or ‘Hip Hop Bling’” culture, including “game consoles, custom sound, television, DVD, public address, custom paints and tire rims, and other exterior and interior amenities” to “appeal to those at highest risk for HIV infection,” according to a memo from Whitaker’s e-mail inbox.The SUV was so blinged-out that it drew other activists’ attention.“It was reported to me that Clifford Armstead from Working for Togetherness was doing outreach in a new HUMMER vehicle. I want to know if any state funds were used to purchase this vehicle,” IDPH deputy director Tom Hughes e-mailed Whitaker and five others on Jan. 13, 2005, records show. “If this is true, it represents terrible judgment on his part. . . . If this hits the paper, we could all be in trouble.”
At no cost. Of course. Yes we can:The organization also got $915,827 in AIDS-awareness money from the city of Chicago between 2005 and 2010. City officials had problems with the organization, too.An investigation by the city inspector general’s office, which was wrapped up last year, concluded that Working for Togetherness had “submitted false documents . . . for the purposes of supporting its activities and obtaining continued funding. In addition, the IGO found evidence that an employee of the not-for-profit sold HIV test kits which CDPH [the Chicago Department of Public Health] supplied to the not-for-profit at no cost.
As for the Hummer, the vehicle ended up being sold “for salvage” after it was “seriously damaged” in a crash in January 2009, shortly after Armstead had died at the age of 60, records show. It’s not clear who was driving the vehicle at the time of the wreck, nor is it clear what was done with the proceeds from the sale.Maybe it was one of these guys.