Statement to News Media
My name is Habib Wala (Ted Habib) and I live at 5822 West Newport, Chicago, Illinois. My story involves corruption at the city of Chicago building inspection department.
In October of 2018, after 20 years of saving and prayers, we purchased the house at 5822 West Newport. We closed on the house in December of 2018 and planned to occupy the home in January of 2019.
January 2019 – Prior to moving in, the basement flooded due to a crack in the foundation. We hired someone to repair the damage. This delayed our move-in date to March of 2019.
February 2019 – City building inspector James Skala placed a yellow sticker on our door. When I called, he said he had seen construction activity at the home. I reported the crack in the foundation and repairs that were made. Though I had an appointment with an inspector at noon, he arrived at 10 a.m. the day of the appointment, kicked open the door and entered the home without permission.
He asked me if I had a building permit for the kitchen and a bathroom on the second floor. I told him the house was built in 1957 and we had not done any work at the home other than repairing the crack in the foundation.
He said the house was built illegally and the city would demolish the house. He said he worked after hours as a consultant and if I paid him $10,000, he could help me.
When the other inspector arrived at noon, Mr. Skala informed him he had already inspected, and everything was fine.
March 2019 – The city sent me a letter, signed by Mr. Skala, notifying us of a violation. I consulted an attorney who advised I hire an architect to submit a plan to address the violation. We then paid $4,500 to an electrician to remove three electric meters that were installed in 1957 and put one additional electric meter. Mr. Skala informed me the house had illegal construction and I needed a certificate of occupancy from the city of Chicago. He said if we moved back in the city would demolish the house. This was not true.
That same month, the city placed a lien on the property.
April 2019 – Between April and August of that year, Mr. Skala visited me at least five times and told me he would make sure my plans would not be approved unless he received his $10,000 consultant fee.
September 2019 – I met with Hal Getz, an inspector with the city. After that meeting, Mr. Skala contacted me and asked if I had met with Mr. Getz. Mr. Getz informed me we could move back into the house once we finished the repairs. Mr. Getz re-inspected the work and authorized us to move back into the house.
November 2019 – We started repairing the crack in the basement. Mr. Skala called the police and told them to arrest me for doing the repairs without a permit. He placed a “stop work” sticker on the house. The city later dropped all charges and gave me six months to get a re-inspection.
Mr. Skala returned and offered to lower his “consultation fee” to $5,000. He said if I paid him everything would be ok.
City inspector Getz then told us we could move into the house.
Mr. Skala continues to threaten us and says the city will demolish anything built in the original 1957 construction unless he gets his “consultation fee.”
March 2020 – We have decided to sell the house because of the ongoing harassment from Mr. Skala.
Hardworking homeowners in Chicago should not be subject to this type of predatory behavior from city employees. It is illegal, unethical and immoral. We make this public statement in the hope that someone in city government will address this corrupt behavior.
Habib Wala (Ted Habib)