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Emanuel Defends Opposition To Quinn’s Choice To Run Stadium Board

Kelly Kraft has worked for the Pat Quinn administration. (Illinois Statehouse News/YouTube)

Kelly Kraft has worked for the Pat Quinn administration. (Illinois Statehouse News/YouTube)

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Updated 10/09/12 – 4:40 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayor Rahm Emanuel was standing firm Tuesday in his opposition to Gov. Pat Quinn’s attempt to install a top aide as executive director of the state’s stadium authority.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the governor wants his communications director, Kelly Kraft, to run the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, because she’s qualified to do the job, and can make sure there are no backroom deals for that agency to pay for renovations at Wrigley Field.

Emanuel flatly denied there’s any deal in the works to renovate Wrigley with taxpayer money, or that he wants the ISFA involved with Wrigley, which is owned by the Cubs.

“That’s never been discussed, it’s ridiculous … it’s not even been on the table,” Emanuel said.

LISTEN: WBBM Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports

The mayor suggested Kraft is not as qualified to run the ISFA as someone with more financial and business experience.

“That board and that staff is the thin blue line protecting the taxpayers of the city of Chicago from paying, in case there’s something’s mismanaged,” Emanuel said. “And I think we should find the best-qualified people for that, which is why I – given the board I inherited – replaced them, put in place a whole new board with backgrounds in financial management, and expect the staff to meet that standard.”

The mayor said the ISFA should have a director with more financial experience than Kraft, especially in light of some past deals.

“We almost had to dip into the reserves, because of management and the recession,” he said. “Then, two, there was a lot of questions raised about an agreement by that board and that management, in the past, with some of the operations over at The Cell [U.S. Cellular Field].”

The mayor pointed to news reports last fall that the ISFA paid $6.9 million for the construction of the “Bacardi at the Park” restaurant and other infrastructure upgrades at U.S. Cellular Field in 2010, without the team having to reimburse the state for the cost. The White Sox and their restaurant partners – Gibsons Restaurant Group – also reap all the profits from the restaurant.

Shortly after the reports about that deal, Emanuel replaced all the ISFA board members appointed by the mayor, all of whom had been on the ISFA board before he took office.

Quinn defended his nomination of Kraft to be executive director of the ISFA, pointing out she is a former assistant budget director for the state. He said the mayor and his operatives should stop questioning her credentials.

“I think we have a good person, a strong person, a strong woman who knows how to manage the budget, find economies and efficiencies, knows how to work with people,” Quinn said. “There’s a lot to be said with someone who can work with all kinds of folks, make sure we have diversity and fairness, and also a person who understands the world of finance and bonds and things like that, and I think that’s Kelly Kraft. … I think it’s time for the mayor to recognize that.”

The governor has accused Emanuel of “character assassination” against both himself and Kraft, accusing the mayor’s office of leaking information that Kraft declared for personal bankruptcy in 2009.

“Everybody knows what’s going on. They’ve been doing that. They know. They should examine their consciences, come on,” the governor said Tuesday. “Running her down by anybody is just plain wrong.”

Emanuel said he has nothing against Kraft personally, but said his own appointees to the ISFA have had business and financial backgrounds.

“I think we need to raise the quality of who’s there, and their financial stewardship,” he said.