Hoar-ticulture

Some people just don’t know how to sell out. Witness Shirley McMayon, the Chicago Park District’s former head of natural resources who mistook fool’s-gold kickbacks for diamond payoffs. The latest casualty in U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald’s long-overdue war on Chicago municipal graft, good ole Shirl (she always preferred the diminutive more befitting of a midcentury cocktail waitress than a municipal manager) made the classic Hogtown mistake. She assumed no one was watching, and she didn’t bother to launder the money.

Now, one normally assumes that anyone who goes by the hoary broad nickname Shirl is no stranger to a good, honest rinse cycle. But things being the way they were before Patty Fitz moved his corruption crosshairs from state to city, I think she can be forgiven that small misstep. After all, just look what Mundelein landscaper James Michael, Inc., was bringing to the party table in order to win $8 million in city landscaping work. Car payments. Ski vacations. Outright payments. A pedicure. What was this woman thinking?

Now the scuttlebut among insiders who knew her well during her stint in Chicago is that Shirl should have been better able to hide her secret life of glee from the feds. She apparently hid her seamier side well from those she knew and worked with professionally in Hogtown. As this compost-laden story hit the fan on Thursday, many a stomach was turning in the otherwise upstanding community greening movement in this town. Because, for all of her $137,000 transgression and likely jail time (hmm, now there’s one place the nickname will fit), McMayon otherwise worked tirelessly on behalf of the greening and open-space movement in Chicago. There are not a few gardeners, community workers, and, yes, even Park District honchos, who feel downright used by good ole hoary.

Why Park City, Utah? You’ve got to wonder about the motives. Ski maven? Strong community gardening movement? Weak local federal prosecutor? For that matter, how did this one end up in Chicago in the first place? She started out in the parks movement in Arizona, and wouldn’t you like to know what kind of dirt Fitz has got on here there? It can’t be as good as the howls of laughter Shirl garnered yesterday being outed for a pedicure kickback.

There you have it. Nice toes. Green thumb. Ski maven. Future convict? $137,000 in grease in return for $8 million in city work. And don’t you think James Michael, Inc., got off cheap in that transaction. So Chicago says hello to another chink in the municipal armor and bids goodbye to a right old hoary broad in the grandest graftest Chicago tradition.

Shirl, we hardly knew you.

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