I covered Burris’ crappy record as a Comptroller back in late April. What I missed was that he has been subpeonaed by the Funeral Director’s Association:
SPRINGFIELD — A group of funeral directors who say they have lost millions of dollars from mismanagement of a pre-need funeral trust fund have filed a subpoena against U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, seeking documents dating back as far as 1980.
Burris was Illinois Comptroller in that year and allowed the Illinois Funeral Directors Association to manage the trust. He later served as a lobbyist for the IFDA.
The plaintiffs, who are suing the IFDA for alleged mismanagement, say they want to know why Burris allowed the group to manage the trust, and they want records of his lobbying activities.
The (Springfield) State Journal-Register could not reach Burris for comment Friday, and Edward Wallace, an attorney for the plaintiffs, declined comment.
Credit to Illinois Review which just popped up on my Google alerts with the link.
Chris Kennedy has been getting pretty glowing coverage lately–in Chicago–not so much in Cleveland. Kennedy’s Merchandise Mart company has clouted a deal through the Cuyahoga county board where the county will float $900 million in bonds to build a mart that Kennedy’s company will then own, having only to put up $20 million and get all the profits for 20 years and having all their property taxes comped.
“Kennedy’s comments came in support of Tim Hagan, who on Thursday publicly defended his close ties to the Kennedy family. Hagan said his relationships have not influenced his support of the medical mart project. But Kennedy, MMPI’s president, said that his relationship with Hagan is why the company came to Cleveland. No one else in town had the influence. ‘Who’s got the juice in that town?’ Kennedy wondered, granting exceptions for Hagan and Cleveland Clinic President and Chief Executive Toby Cosgrove. ‘We would not invest there if it weren’t for Tim Hagan. Who else could get us to come there?” he said. ‘Nobody’s doing business in Cleveland.’” (Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Med Mart Criticism Ripped; MMPI President Blasts City’s Negativity,” March 29, 2009)
Smell the change in the air!
Under threat of a lawsuit from The Plain Dealer, Cuyahoga County commissioners Tuesday promised not to approve a development agreement on the taxpayer-funded $425 million medical mart project until the public has at least a week to review the deal.
Commissioners and their attorney have negotiated the deal in secrecy with a private partner for over a year, giving taxpayers almost no details about how the public’s money will be spent or protected. The newspaper was prepared to sue commissioners Friday under the Ohio Open Records Law, resulting in negotiations to give the public an advance look.
“We are satisfied, but we are utterly disappointed with how this process has been conducted,” Plain Dealer Editor Susan Goldberg said. “It has been alarming to see elected officials operate with this level of disregard for the public’s right to know how its money is being spent and how decisions of enormous civic importance are being made.”
The development agreement will detail the county’s partnership with Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., which will build, own and operate the mart and convention center. MMPI will collect all profits from operating the mart and convention center. Commissioners increased the sales tax to free up money for the complex.
The newspaper decided to go to court because commissioners have deprived taxpayers of the ability to ensure the agreement makes sense — before the county hands over $425 million of public money to a private enterprise.
What a deal!
Hagan’s also upset that the PD dared to ask a really obvious and important question: how has Tim Hagan’s close relationship with the Kennedy family affected the negotiations with Med Mart developer MMPI and its president, Chris Kennedy?
This is the article that set Hagan off. The PD says one reason it threatened a lawsuit to get the county to reveal its latest agreement with MMPI is that it’s “concerned” about the Hagan-Chris Kennedy relationship.
At a meeting a year ago, when an earlier county-MMPI agreement was unveiled, even Jimmy Dimora mentioned Hagan’s awkward ties.
“Commissioner Hagan especially, because of his relationship with the Kennedy family, was in a very difficult position,” Dimora said then. “And he stood up for our community and for making sure we got a good deal. Even though [with] friendship, sometimes you try to be lax and easier with your friends, more understanding, he stood the line, which helped make sure that MMPI knew that we were serious and that we wanted to do the right thing for the taxpayers.”
That’s Hagan’s dilemma, his conflict of interest, right there. Of course the PD should ask about it.
I did too, last spring. “The assumption is that I would be compromised in those discussions,” Hagan said then. “I don’t want to give that impression. I certainly know people in this town as well or better that we’ve negotiated with.” (Today at the meeting, Hagan said Sam Miller and the Ratners of Forest City have given him $75,000 over the years, which didn’t keep him from rejecting their Med Mart site.)
“I know Chris Kennedy,” Hagan told me last year. “I went to his mother’s 80th birthday party. They’ve been friends of mine for almost 40 years. But the Kennedys no longer own Merchandise Mart, and he’s the president of the company. I don’t think that precludes my discussions with him.
“I think the public scrutiny and transparency of the deal put before the public is proof that I’ve tried to operate in the best interests of community first and foremost.”
Which is why the PD wants to see the new agreement!
For three years, Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan showed little urgency in seeking a site for a proposed $425 million convention center and medical mart. Just two weeks ago, he defended a proposed delay by saying: “We can’t twist anybody’s arm.”
But that all changed sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
Hagan suddenly became a driven man, twisting the arms of his fellow commissioners behind closed doors to choose where to build what many consider the county’s most important public project in years. The decision, if it holds, would mean the county has decided to spend nearly a half-billion public dollars without holding a meeting in public to discuss the basis for its decision.
To make it happen, Hagan overrode the concerns of the county’s $100,000 negotiator, who wanted time to bargain with landowners before committing to one site.
Why the sudden rush? Why all the secrecy? And why would a county government in the middle of a sweeping federal corruption investigation choose not to conduct its business in the most open way possible?
I’m completely baffled by the press falling all over Hamlet of the Mart and Hamlet on the Lake. Both are nothing more than political hacks who think the world is their personal playground and I’m getting pretty fucking tired of the routine. In contrast, we have two good progressives potentially running for the seat who have shown a committment to public service. In the case of Jan, we see her being judged by the business dealings of her husband while two men in the race aren’t even judged by their own business dealings. In the case of Alexi, we see him being the first to figure out a scam from an investment company among several states involved in the fund and he gets criticized over buying a fuel efficient state vehicle.
Statewide polling last week showed that Bill Brady’s campaign for Governor is moving forward. Head-to-head matchups between Brady and two presumed contenders for the Democratic nomination showed Brady earning support across the board and solidly in the game.
The numbers showed:
Brady is drawing expected support from Republicans but also gaining favor of African-Americans, Hispanics, Democrats and independents. Both Governor Quinn and Attorney General Madigan have won multiple statewide elections, and both are current elected statewide officials. Brady’s not leading and has more work to do, but the polling suggests he’s clearly off to a good start.
— The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling survey and included 991 Illinois voters. It was taken April 24-26 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.
I don’t think solidly in the game means what Brady thinks it means.