Talk is cheap unless under oath, Mayor Daley
Enjoy this great article by Laurie Cohen and Todd Lighty, a great pair of Chicago journalists
Officials will testify on zoning
Bridgeport dispute must be told under oath, judge rules
By Laurie Cohen and Todd Lighty | Tribune staff writers
August 17, 2007 City Hall officials will have to testify under oath about allegations that the city blocked zoning changes to punish a controversial real estate developer.
A federal judge on Thursday agreed with developer Thomas Snitzer that the testimony was needed to find out whether city officials have held up the rezoning to force Snitzer to drop a lawsuit against the city and several of Mayor Richard Daley's political allies.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jacqueline Cox said she was concerned about the claim that the city might improperly be linking the zoning changes to Snitzer's lawsuit. The allegation of a linkage "does trouble me," Cox said at a court hearing on Thursday.
Even though a city lawyer denied the charge and objected to the request for sworn testimony, Cox said that "a denial under oath would be more convincing."
After the hearing, Edward Feldman, Snitzer's lawyer, said he would probably get a sworn statement from Ald. James Balcer, whose 11th Ward is the site of the Bridgeport Village housing development built by Snitzer and two partners. Balcer could not be reached for comment.
Feldman said he plans to obtain depositions from a couple of other city officials, but he has not yet decided which ones.
Bridgeport Village, a 115-home luxury development on the South Side along the Chicago River, filed for bankruptcy protection in March. The developers are trying to sell the project's key asset, 25 acres of nearby industrial property, which is expected to bring millions of dollars more if it were rezoned for residential use.
In a Bankruptcy Court filing last week, Snitzer charged that the Daley administration might be blocking the lucrative zoning change to pressure him to drop his federal lawsuit against the city.
That suit alleges that Snitzer was forced out as manager of Bridgeport Village in 2005 because he refused to give favors and take orders from 11th Ward operatives, including former top Daley aide Timothy Degnan and Degnan business associate Thomas DiPiazza.
City officials have said that they helped persuade a state court to oust Snitzer because of building-code violations at the project.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan, who is overseeing Snitzer's federal suit, dismissed Degnan and DiPiazza as defendants, but left standing two civil-right charges against the city and former Building Commissioner Stan Kaderbek.
Snitzer's main evidence that the city might be holding up the zoning change is a sworn statement by Feldman. In the statement, Feldman said that Steven Towbin, a lawyer for Snitzer's partners, said in a phone conversation on July 19 that city lawyers had told Towbin that Snitzer's lawsuit was "not helpful" to the city's consideration of rezoning.
At the bankruptcy hearing on Thursday, Towbin denied that he told Feldman that city lawyers linked the zoning changes to Snitzer's suit. Instead, Towbin said city lawyers "made it very clear to me that there is no linkage."
Towbin acknowledged, however, that he had told Feldman that his own opinion was that the lawsuit would hinder the chances for City Hall approval of rezoning. "When you sue somebody and call them a criminal, it's not helpful," Towbin said.
Towbin also said Balcer has recently met with one of Snitzer's partners, John Kinsella, and has promised to meet with potential buyers of the industrial property.
I hope the 11th Ward knows what happens to those that lie. John Daley would be a great help also, right Rich?