Political insider Finney sues city inspector general over subpoena
BY LISA DONOVAN AND FRAN SPIELMAN Staff Reporters April 25, 2012 6:22PM
2-16-10 4108 S. King Drive. Chicago, Illinois. Rev. Dr. Leon D. Finney Jr stands outside of a vancant building that will house the Chicago Gospel Music Heritage Museum. Photo by Scott Stewart/Sun-Times
Updated: May 28, 2012 8:57AM
Former Chicago Plan Commission member Leon Finney — a fixture on the political scene for decades — is trying to keep the city’s inspector general from snooping into his personal, business and church finances.
Finney has filed a lawsuit aimed at quashing Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s subpoena for records from Finney’s now-shuttered restaurant, his development deals, church and personal finances.
In the process, Finney is drawing attention to himself as the subject of a city investigation.
Finney was one of former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s most prominent African-American supporters. He served on the Chicago Plan Commission from 1979 until shortly after Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office.
Earlier this month, Ferguson’s office subpoenaed Lakeside Bank to examine Finney’s personal, church and now-shuttered restaurant bank statements between 2008 and 2011, court records show.
But Finney shot back in his lawsuit filed this week, calling the subpoenas “fishing expeditions” and illegal. Finney claims Ferguson has no jurisdiction since neither he nor the Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church where he’s pastor or even his Leon’s eatery had city contracts during the four years covered in the subpoena. And they don’t currently, court records state.
Finney believes The Woodlawn Organization or “TWO” — where he was once president but hasn’t had a position since 2007 — is the actual target of the inspector general’s probe, court records state. Dating back to the 1950s, the organization fought back against an expansion by the University of Chicago, and mobilized Woodlawn residents against dishonest local businesses, slumlords and school segregation.
In his suit, Finney states that during 2011, Ferguson “began to investigate TWO’s performance of certain contracts it had had with the City.”
The inspector general’s office didn’t comment Wednesday.
Finney’s lawsuit states that TWO has had contracts with the city over the years, but the pastor asserts he never had no connection to the deals — again attempting to make the case he’s not subject to Ferguson’s subpoenas.
“At no time has Finney personally conducted business with TWO. Finney has personally received no funds from TWO connected with any city contracts and has personally performed no services pursuant to or in connection with those contracts,” the suit states.
In legal papers, Finney does acknowledge his church rented space to TWO and his restaurant Leon’s provided catering services, but those deals weren’t part of any city contract.
While he couldn’t be reached for comment, Finney suggests in his lawsuit that he knows more than a little bit about the probe. In the legal papers, he states that TWO has been cooperative with the city inspector general, producing “numerous documents” for the investigation.
And two companies tied to Finney — Tre’s on 63rd restaurant and Lincoln South Central real estate — have turned documents over to the inspector general, the lawsuit states. The companies had served as TWO vendors who worked on city contracts.
This isn’t the first time Finney’s run in to problems in recent years.
In 2010, South Side residents disrupted a Chicago Plan Commission meeting to demand that Mayor Daley remove Finney from the commission because, they claimed, he was a “slumlord.”
In the last six months, local news outlets have reported about an FBI and federal housing probe as well as a lawsuit tied to Woodlawn Community Development Corp.’s management of public housing projects at the Gary Housing Authority.
Sources told the Northwest Indiana-based Post-Tribune last year that the local housing agency may have lost $850,000 over three years to Woodlawn’s alleged misappropriation of federal funds to boost its payroll.