Calumet City aldermen question credit card bills for Hooters, hotels, dinners and cars

Calumet City’s municipal credit card statement showing charges from Hooters, a Gordon Ramsey restaurant, a hotel in New Orleans and a Cadillac lease have led aldermen to question whether Mayor Thaddeus Jones or another official is attempting to charge city taxpayers for personal expenses.

Concerns over city spending began when aldermen noticed the city was being charged for the lease payment of a Cadillac that, according to 6th Ward Ald. James Patton, is used by Jones’ wife, Saprina.

“We’ve seen her driving it and he told us that that’s a car that she uses,” Patton said Tuesday. “I’ve got no issue with the mayor having a car. My issue is, of course, if his wife is driving a car on the taxpayer’s dime. I have a very big issue with that.”

Patton noted Saprina is not a city employee. The agenda from a City Council meeting April 25 shows a request to pay $14,220 to Napleton River Oaks Cadillac Inc.

Jones declined requests for comment on questions regarding the Cadillac charges.

Fifth Ward Ald. Dejuan Gardner also moved to delay paying a series of charges on the municipal credit card statement. Records obtained by the Daily Southtown show they include $2,823 from a Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans dated Nov. 2, $2,288 from Amazon Jan. 25, a $2,000 donation to United Campbell Avenue Block Club Organization March 26, more than $1,500 from various gas stations, $958 for Uber from December to February, and $902 from Hertz Car Rental from December to February.

“None of us are aware of a city trip that happened (in) New Orleans,” said Patton, who announced earlier this year he is running for mayor of Calumet City in 2025. “So we are curious where that bill originated from.”

Patton said he asked the treasurer to look into $1,323 in charges from Cousins Maine Lobster March 25, $409 from Chicago Cut Steakhouse Jan. 18, $205 from Hooters Jan. 21, and $58 from Gordon Ramsey Burger Dec. 30, records show.

“My assumption is that the mayor has access to a city credit card and is putting these charges on a city credit card,” said Patton. “The bigger issue is, first, getting an idea and an understanding of how this is happening.”

Jones declined requests for comment on questions regarding these additional charges.

In 2022, a federal investigation was opened into Jones’ campaign spending over concerns he was misusing campaign funds, the Chicago Tribune reported. In 2017, Ald. DeAndre Tillman, 3rd, and Patton also filed a complaint alleging Jones improperly reported tens of thousands of dollars in loans to and from his campaigns and spent political cash on personal expenditures including about $7,000 spent at Hooters between 2014 and 2016.

The city’s Finance Committee will meet Thursday and asked Jones and the city treasurer to provide more information on the bills, according to the meeting agenda on the city’s website and the aldermen. The aldermen will also discuss if changes should be made to the city’s credit card policy if the mayor and treasurer do not provide clear explanation on why the bills were charged to the city.

Patton said some of the charges may be correctly billed to the city, but more information is needed.

Gardner, who chairs the Finance Committee, declined to comment on this story.

“It’s not clear who made the purchases and what the purchases were for and that’s the reason for the ask for the backup for what these are,” said 1st Ward Ald. Michael Navarrete.

If proper verification can not be provided to prove that the charges were for city duties, the aldermen said they will then decide how to move forward with the outstanding charges.