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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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Mike Doyle

I’m an #OpenlyAutistic gay, Hispanic, urbanist, Disney World fan, New York native, politically independent, Jewish blogger in Chicago. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I write words and raise money for nonprofits. I’ve written this blog since 2005. And counting...

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1 reply

  1. Ha-ha. Really enjoyed this. “Shirl” was my boss for a brief time when she first started at the Park District, and I can tell you that her seamy side was no secret to those she managed. Foul-mouthed and imperious, she treated her employees with an absolute lack of respect, including making one male employee her personal chauffeur. And the word “tart” comes to mind, when I picture her as she appeared one day when I walked into her office: sitting cross-legged on the floor of her office, going through some file folders, her skirt hiked up to a fare-thee-well, while an embarassed very-married-with-children male employee stood by awkwardly, waiting for her to find some information he needed.

    As for her personal life: not so hot. Divorced–again–this time from a man she’d been married to for a couple of years or so, who’d moved with her from Las Vegas to Chicago when she was hired at CPD. Also not so hot on the motherhood front. When she received a phone call at the office one day, informing her that one of her two sons was to be suspended from his new high school for carrying a cell phone (Shirl hadn’t bothered to read the info provided to parents about school rules–“I don’t have time to read that sh*t,” she complained for all in the office to hear), she announced her intention of giving him the option of moving back to Louisiana (Shirl’s home state) to live with his dad, another of Shirl’s ex’s. And he’d have to decide quickly, because if he chose to go, Shirl wanted to take advantage of an upcoming three-day holiday weekend to move him down. She didn’t want to have to take time off from work for the bothersome chore of dumping her kid.

    She’s a wretched person, but I have sympathy for her nonetheless. In fact, if I can find out where she’s incarcerated, I’d love to send her a batch of homemade cookies. I’m thinking chocolate chip and brussel sprouts.

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