By Patrick Forrest
Residents on the city’s South and Southwest sides got some of the first official answers following months of missing mail, in the form of an inspector general report outlining major defects in four postal locations.
At post office branches located at 83rd and Ashland; 77th and Cottage Grove; 46th and Cottage Grove; and the 3600 block of West 79th Street, more than 60,000 pieces of mail were delayed between September, 2020 and February, 2021.
With the release of the report, Congressman Bobby Rush demanded the removal of the Chicago Postmaster, Wanda Prater, alongside Mayor John D. Ryan of Alsip, IL, and several aldermen.
“People who depend on the postal service, seniors, families, other people depending on the postal service day-in and day-out, it’s an absolute, epic, total, undeniable failure,” Rush said. “I can only conclude and demand that Postmaster Prater resign immediately, or she be terminated immediately.”
Prater, whose base salary according to the Office of Personnel Management was $98,885 when she assumed the Postmaster position in 2014, manages postal operations from 433 W. Harrison, popularly referred to as “the Main Post Office.”
The USPS Inspector General investigation was requested by Rush after a virtual town hall meeting in July 2020 that drew more than 3,500 participants who all complained about delayed and undelivered mail. The investigation took place in September 2020. All the information in the report occurred during that period.
The report details repeated and apparent intentional inaccurate reporting of conditions at the Auburn Park (8345 S. Ashland), Henry McGee (4601 S. Cottage Grove), Ashburn (3639 W. 79th St.), and James E. Worsham (7715 S. Cottage Grove) stations.
During the period the investigation occurred three stations did not report any non-deliveries and the Auburn Park Station reported 329 non-deliveries the day before the inspectors arrived. Inspectors found 18,785 non-deliveries for all four stations on that day.
Rush was not the only federal official to make calls for changes at the post office, with Senator Dick Durbin also joining the calls for changes at the leadership level.
“They need to take an assessment of resources,” Illinois’ senior senator said. “They don’t have enough resources to get the job done. They need some hard and fast rules. Two-day delivery was the standard for years and now it’s not even close.”
District Manager Randy Shines did offer some defense for the under-performing stations, deflecting some blame onto the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest the city saw following the death of George Floyd.
“It’s important to note that during the time frame of the audit we were dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and had several hundred carriers off the clock due to leave,” Shines said in a letter attached to the published report.
“Couple that with the civil unrest we saw leading up to the audit and the carrier that was shot four times in the leg and once in the head, and we had a lot of employees not coming to work due to fear of being on the street.”
Despite the additional comment left by Shines, recommendations were still made of him to begin to watch the reporting of these four stations more closely, which some still hope will lead to more consistent delivery.
“The post office is important and we need them back on the ball,” said Margaret Jones, a 77-year-old Chatham resident whose home is serviced by one of the offices. “I don’t know if this is what they need to do it, but we need them to get back on it.”