September 16, 2014
It will be at least two months before former Mayor Richard M. Daley testifies in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s court fight to break an exclusive deal that clout-heavy investors got under the Daley administration to operate a restaurant on Michigan Avenue in Millennium Park.
Daley originally was to testify this week. But the contentious food fight between City Hall and the operators of the Park Grill is taking longer than expected. Two weeks into the civil trial, only seven witnesses have testified.
Now, Cook County Circuit Judge Moshe Jacobius has put the trial on hiatus until July 8 to accomodate his schedule and those of the attorneys for City Hall and the restaurant.
“It’s a complicated matter,” Jacobius said Friday. “There’s so much here. I’ve never had a case where I’ve had 1,000 exhibits.”
The judge also issued a ruling Friday that City Hall’s attorneys can treat Laura Foxgrover, a former Chicago Park District official, as a hostile witness when she testifies about her affair with one of the restaurant’s operators, Matthew O’Malley, while he was negotiating the restaurant’s concession agreement. Foxgrover gave birth to O’Malley’s daughter in September 2002, about five months before the park district signed a contract with O’Malley’s group. Foxgrover and O’Malley got married last year.
O’Malley’s group got a 30-year deal from the park district, which agreed to pay for natural gas and garbage collection for the Park Grill, while getting a share of the profits along with a monthly fee that has been waived for years.
Over the past decade, the Park Grill has grossed $100 million. But the Emanuel administration argues that the park district has lost at least $300,000 under a deal it maintains has “cheated taxpayers” out of $8 million.
In late 2011, Emanuel sued to end the arrangement after O’Malley and his partner James Horan tried to sell their management company to the Levy Organization for $8 million — a deal that needed park district approval.
Daley is among the 14 witnesses expected to be called by O’Malley and Horan, who are seeking more than $12.8 million in damages after the park district didn’t give them permission to sell the management company.
Emanuel argues that the Park Grill deal is illegal because the Chicago Park District let the restuarant open on land controlled not by the park system but instead by the city of Chicago and failing to get the City Council’s OK.
Anthony Licata — an attorney for the Park Grill who negotiated the concession deal — has testified that he knew the park district didn’t have formal permission from the city to open the restaurant, but he said he was assured that the park district would get that authority. That never happened.
Though the City Council never signed off on the restaurant deal, the Park Grill’s attorneys say they’re puzzled by Emanuel’s lawsuit. They maintain that Daley played an integral role in planning Millennium Park, including the restaurant, even ordering that the restaurant’s bar not be visible from Michigan Avenue.
In a deposition he gave last August, the former mayor testified that he doesn’t recall much about Millennium Park’s planning or about the restaurant.