Public Watchdog.org

Frimark’s Secret Land Deals No Bargain For Taxpayers

08.14.08

Kudos to the Herald-Advocate for giving Mayor Howard Frimark yet another opportunity to display his voracious appetite for secret land deals – while at the same time highlighting his ignorance of not only the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”) but also the law of eminent domain that allows governmental bodies to buy whatever property they need for the public good by paying its fair market value (“FMV”).  

Frimark’s letter to the editor (“Confidential information should not be released,” August 14) scolds First Ward Ald. Dave Schmidt for blowing the whistle on an attempt by Frimark and his alderpuppets to bail out Frimark friend and campaign contributor Napleton Cadillac by having the City acquire Napleton’s recently-closed Busse Hwy. site, ostensibly for the big new police station the mayor wants to put his name on.  That’s after Frimark’s plan to gift Napleton with as much as $2.4 million of taxpayer dollars fell through when GM allegedly pulled Napleton’s dealerships.

Frimark correctly notes that land acquisition is one of the recognized exceptions to IOMA’s open meeting requirement and permits closed session discussions, away from the prying eyes of the press and the public.  But he then conveniently ignores an even more important fact about IOMA: that it doesn’t require any closed sessions at all, for any reason; and it also doesn’t require that closed session activities be kept secret or “confidential.”  

That’s because the state legislature realized that the best way “to protect the public treasury and the taxpayers whose hard earned dollar [sic] fund that treasury” – Frimark’s professed concern – is to ensure the public’s right to know what its local governments are doing with that treasury, including what they are doing in those closed sessions. 

Consequently, it’s perfectly legal for Ald. Schmidt or anybody else to walk out of one of those closed sessions and reveal anything and everything that went on in there, or to write it all up and distribute it anywhere and everywhere.  That’s what really frosts Frimark and ticks off his alderpuppets, because they can’t legally enforce their Culture of Secrecy against a straight shooter like Schmidt.

So Frimark makes up an excuse for trying to keep land deals secret from us taxpayers who get stuck paying for them: Secrecy saves us money!  

According to our mayor, secret deals between the City and private property owners prevent “the marketplace” from finding out about the City’s interest and driving up the price.  That’s because (wink, wink) those private property owners like Napleton would much rather take a lot less money from the City than what they could otherwise get from “the marketplace.”  Yeah, right.

If you want to see how well that concept works, look no further than the City’s aborted attempt to buy the former Foot and Ankle Surgeons headquarters on Busse Hwy. across from the Public Works building.  As we reported in 515 Busse Highway – The Park Ridge Police Station That Almost Was (November 15, 2007), local realtor and Friend of Frimark Owen Hayes II almost flipped that building to the City in 2004 for a $200,000 profit within days of his having acquired it himself. 

So unless Hayes was able to really lowball his own client (he was also the listing broker for the Surgeons), the FMV of that property – the price at which the City could have condemned and bought it – was Hayes’ purchase price of $950,000.  Yet the City, with then-4th Ward Ald. Howard Frimark reportedly leading the cheers, was ready to pay $1,150,000 for it…without so much as even getting it appraised (if our source is correct).

No appraisals.  Big, quick profits for the sellers at the taxpayers’ expense.  And insults for the one guy with the guts and integrity to tell the truth.  That’s what we get when “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark does things his way – behind closed doors.  

10 comments so far

No more closed sessions for buying property. How many police station sites has Frimark had the council looking at in the last year? Didn’t he vote to buy that house on Courtland for the police station, the one that’s sitting there not being used for anything?

Careful Fred. The Mayor doesn’t like public criticism. He prefers it be kept under wraps, just like important decisions affecting the taxpayers. He may call your boss to complain. He has done it before to others. He’s a bad apple to be sure.

fred raises a couple of significant points:

1. how much paid city staff time is being wasted on every new cop shop site frimark comes up with?

2. how much has the value declined on the courtland property the city bought a few years ago?

I never heard of the Owen Hayes deal before (maybe because I haven’t been reading this site that long). That’s enough to convince me that secret land deals are bad for us taxpayers.

THe longer I read your blog pages, the less I like our mayor (not that I ever “liked” him. Is Schmidt a candidate for mayor in April?

If he did run he would need a strong grass roots organization, because he would be up against an incumbent with alot of special interest money. It could boil down to whether there are enough volunteers and contributors to make him viable against the Machine.

Is Frimark again resorting to making his infamous threatening calls to the employers of people who dare to disagree and criticize his wheeling and dealing? Typical Frimark. That’s one of his usual dirty tricks. The man isn’t a bad apple. He’s an evil pig. No ethics. No moral compass. No boundaries. No decency. God help us.

Dear Mayor Frimark:

If you read this blog (and I know you do, or you have your secretary print it out for you), please identify: (a) each parcel of real estate that you wanted the city to purchase that you could have obtained for less than its fair market value, (b) the price the city could have paid, (c) the fair market value of the property, and (d) who we could talk to in order to ensure that you aren’t lying too us?

I found the following posted as a comment on Park Ridge Underground and it looks to be accurate:

“Disclosure of Matters Discussed in Closed Meetings: A public body cannot sanction one of its members for disclosing information or issues discussed in a closed meeting. 1991 Ill.
Att’y Gen. Op. 1. The Attorney General noted that the possibility of such sanctions ‘would only serve as an obstacle to the effective enforcement of the Act, and a shield behind which opponents of open government could hide.’

In affirming dismissal of a count alleging that a public body had violated the Act by making disclosures to the public concerning information given in a closed meeting, the Appellate Court noted that ‘there is nothing in the Act that provides a cause of action against a public body for disclosing information from a closed meeting.’ Swanson v. Board of Police Commissioners, 197 Ill. App. 3d 592, 609 (Second Dist. 1990).

These observations and holdings do not, of course, indicate that members of a public body should not deal carefully with confidential information that may be brought before the body in the course of a closed meeting.”

So, Mayor Frimark, you are once again wrong on the law (no surprise). You have once again shown yourself to be a small and petty individual with your attacks on Ald. Schmidt (again, no surprise). And you are clearly trying to pull another fast one over on the citizens of Park Ridge (like you did when you got us to elect you almost 4 years ago).

Why don’t you just resign and save us the trouble of getting rid of you?

After the abysmal disaster Frimark has proven to be, an honorable man would resign. But not only is Frimark not an honorable man, he is also an ego maniac who will run again and expect to win in a contested election. If I had greater faith in the voters I’d say that expectation was delusional, but Frimark has always well understood the ignorance of the voters and capitalized on it for his own gain.

Maybe things have changed in the community, and if Schmidt or somebody else runs against Frimark, another 4 years of this goon is not a foregone conclusion, but I’m not holding my breath.



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