Frimark’s Secret Land Deals No Bargain For Taxpayers


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.