The scandal-plagued Chicago operator of 16 charter schools has hired Public Communications Inc. after a competitive search.

The UNO Charter School Network (UCSN), which along with the not-for-profit United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) faces probes by the SEC and IRS and regulatory pressure from the State of Illinois, gave Chicago-based PCI a one-year, $176K pact after a fall RFP process.

The charter school operator recently moved to take over all school management when its current management contract with UNO expires in June 2015. UCSN sought a firm to guide all public communications, media strategy, issues management and similar PR tasks, according to the RFP, which was initially released in the spring but halted before a re-release in September.

The Chicago Sun-Times has sued UNO and the UCSN as the paper seeks records of outside consultants, including PR and lobbying, through Freedom of Information Act requests. UNO maintains that its structure as a non-profit separate from the charter school network that operates the schools does not require certain records to be released.

UNO in September hired Purple Strategies, the firm of Chris Mather, former communications director for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.