Public Watchdog.org

515 Busse Highway – The Park Ridge Police Station That Almost Was

11.15.07

As the discussion of a new 39,000 square foot police station begins to heat up again now that it looks like School District 64’s headquarters at 164 South Prospect is not a viable site, we are reminded of the poem that begins “For want of a nail…” and goes on to describe how a kingdom was lost because one single warhorse lost its shoe due to a missing nail.  With that poem as background, it might be worth a short trip down memory lane to consider the new police station that we almost had back in the Spring of 2004.

The story actually began on January 23, 2004, when local real estate broker and long-time political insider Owen J. Hayes II formed an Illinois limited liability company named “515 Busse LLC,” apparently for the purpose of purchasing the commercial property located at 515 Busse Highway – across the street from the Public Works Building – which was then owned by the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons.

The timing of Hayes’ efforts to acquire that property were serendipitous: The College was looking to move out of town and its Director, J.C. (Chris) Mahaffey, a former chairman of the Park Ridge Economic Development Corporation (“EDC”), had reached out to the EDC’s executive director, Sharon Curcio, for help in finding a buyer.  According to a letter written by Mr. Mahaffey [PDF], Curcio “mentioned” the City’s interest in acquiring a larger police facility and Mahaffey asked her to suggest the College’s building.

Although Curcio reported back that the City was “not interested,” both City Manager Tim Schuenke and Chief of Police Jeff Caudill are reported to have said that the property was not brought to their attention when it was originally placed on the market in November, 2003.  It remains unclear how the City eventually became interested in the 515 Busse building, but sometime in late December 2003, Hayes – coincidentally, also a former EDC chairman – reportedly contracted to purchase the building.

For those of you who don’t remember the EDC, it was formed in the early 1990s to promote business development and growth within the City.  Although almost 50% of the EDC funding came from the City and the EDC’s office was located in City Hall, for almost its entire existence its meetings were closed to the public.  By 2004, Hayes’ fellow EDCers included current 5th Ward Ald. Robert Ryan and former 4th.Ward Ald. John Kerin; and Mayor Howard Frimark had only recently resigned his charter membership.

So Hayes was getting set to close on the 515 Busse property when the City became aware that property was for sale.  On March 30, 2004, Chief Caudill and City Manager Schuenke were given a tour of the building by Hayes, who ostensibly was acting as the broker for the College.  The property was listed for sale at $1,385,000, and Hayes indicated that another buyer was interested.

On April 5, 2004 city staff made a presentation to the City Council, and the Council instructed the City Attorney to prepare an offer at $1,150,000 to purchase the property. By April 9, however, Chief Caudill was tipped about a possible transfer of ownership of that property.  Upon checking the public record, he determined that ownership of the property had been transferred to Hayes on April 1, 2004, for a purchase price of $950,000.

That led to a closed session meeting of the City Council on April 19, [PDF], at which time the Council was informed about the property transfer to Hayes.  After deciding to instruct the City Attorney to proceed with a formal complaint against Hayes to the Illinois Office of Banks and Real Estate (the governmental body that regulates real estate brokers), the Council deadlocked 7 to 7 on a motion to pursue the purchase of the 515 Busse property, but at a price of $975,000.  At that point, the Council abandoned any further efforts to acquire that site; and the property was subsequently sold and now houses Avenues to Independence and, until very recently, the Howard P. Frimark Insurance Agency.  The Mayor has reportedly moved his business to 422 N. Northwest Highway, which appears to be another Owen Hayes owned building. [PDF].

On April 27, 2004 the City Attorney filed a complaint against Hayes [PDF] with Commissioner D. Lorenzo Padron at the Department of Banks and Real Estate.  Because of understaffing of that Department, however, the investigation of the City’s complaint languished until November, 2006, when an inquiry from an alderman prompted the City Attorney to follow up on the matter.

On October 25, 2007, a consent order [PDF] – the equivalent of a plea bargain – was entered by which the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation issued a formal reprimand against Hayes’ real estate license for violating 225 ILCS 454/20-20(h)(12)[PDF] – engaging in “dishonorable, unethical, or unprofessional conduct of a character likely to deceive, defraud, or harm the public.”

Nevertheless, Hayes remains active in the community, continuing to serve as the chairman of the Farmer’s Market and recently serving as Treasurer for Ald. Robert Ryan’s 5th Ward campaign.

But how Hayes handled this particular transaction reveals how deals can be done in ways that look, sound and smell fishy when made public – and how, as the State’s Department of Financial and Professional Regulation found, they can violate the law.

But even worse is the fact that the kinky-ness of this deal may have cost the taxpayers a bundle of money.  Because of Hayes’ wrongful non-disclosure of his interest in the 515 Busse property, the City Council abandoned its efforts to buy that property for a new police station at either the original offer of $1,150,000 or the reduced offer of $975,000 – and it is now shopping for a new cop shop of almost double the size of the 515 Busse building…at more than ten times the price.

“For want of a nail….”

7 comments so far

Has Hayes ever explained why he didn’t disclose to the City Council, the City Manager or the Chief of Police, that he had the property under contract? That sounds pretty basic to me, so is this guy simply a goof or is he a kink?

What kind of an incestuous bunch of two bit swindlers have we allowed to take over this town? And yes I mean we. We are responsible for this. We let them set up their shell game right under our noses. We watched as they led this community by being economical with the truth. We elected these guys and allowed their friends to pillage us. Who is to blame? Us.

Sorry Anonymous,

I’m not buying that. Every time some politician or insider cheats the public, somebody turns around and blames the public for not paying attention.

Noone would ever think of blaming a burglary victim for having gone out of the house, so why is it this way with swindlers who try to rob the public?

These guys are slimeballs. Pure and simple.

I’m not going to argue against categorizing anybody who deceives the public as a slimeball, because that’s what they are. But the voters aren’t like the burglary victim, either – because the burglary victim who locks his doors when he leaves his house is not inviting the burglar inside, unlike the stupid/uninformed/lazy voters who actually hand over the keys to the government to the politicians who end up stealing from us or letting others steal from us.

Andrew Shepherd,

I’m not buying that argument either. It still smacks of a blame the victim way of thinking. It is not “inviting” crime to trust what people tell you. Are the voters ignorant? I believe they are. Are the voters lazy? Maybe a little because voters don’t go looking for the dirt, but the voters aren’t as lazy as the majority of people who don’t even bother to vote!

I don’t want to get too far off the topic here, but I do not accept that what this article talks about, the sleazyness of what this looks like to me, is in any way the fault of the voters.

This is the first I have read about all of this anyway. I can’t be considered a lazy voter who invites crime when I’m not even told about what is going on.

This all seems to have been buried for a long time.

[…] And remember the last time the City acted secretly to buy property for a new cop shop: It almost gave “insider” Owen Hayes II a quick $200,000 “flipping” profit. “515 Busse Highway – The Park Ridge Police Station That Almost Was” (Watchdog 11-15-07) […]

Thanks for the link…I forgot about this mess. Howard and Owen, what a pair.



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