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City Hall Loses Lawsuit Over Millennium Park Restaurant Contract

By Kate Shepherd in News on Sep 24, 2015 8:09PM

The long Park Grill saga ended in a stunning loss for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city today. Cook County Circuit Court judge Moshe Jacobius rejected Emanuel's claims that the restaurant's contract with the city was invalid, according to Crain's.

"To dislodge the (Park Grill) joint venture after all that has occurred would bring a pallor on anyone transacting business with the city. The court must therefore rule in favor of the Park Grill parties," Jacobius wrote in his ruling.

Emanuel initiated a lawsuit alleging that the Park Grill's 30-year contract for Millennium Park, which was bestowed by Mayor Daley's Park District to the restaurant in 2003, is a "sweetheart deal" granted through unfair influence and has robbed the city's taxpayers of more than $8 million in revenue.

City Hall claimed that the "unfair influence" was a romantic affair between one of Park Grill's owners, Matthew O'Malley, and a Chicago Park District employee, Laura Foxgrove. The city's lawyers also argued that contract, which allows the Park Grill to avoid paying property taxes, garbage collection or water fees as if they were a vendor, was so one-sided that it was not fair to enforce it.

Jacobius did not buy into the city's claims despite the fact he agreed that Foxgrover's role in the deal was wrong. However, he ruled that there was no hard evidence presented that she "directly subverted the bidding and negotiation process".

City Hall may also be discounting other factors that could've affected the restaurant's "extremely favorable" contract when it was signed in 2002, according to Jacobius. There was an economic downturn going on at the time and there may have been a shortage of bidders for the project.

He also wondered why the city did not file a lawsuit until 2011 when they have known about the situation for years.

"The city has known about the property issues raised in this case since 2003 and about Foxgrover's involvement since 2005," Jacobius wrote.

Emanuel isn't ready to give up his fight against the Park Grill's contract.

"Today the court ruled against Chicago's taxpayers, who we believe have been taken advantage of in a sweetheart ‎deal that benefited a select few," he said in a statement. "This 30-year 'contract' has already cost Chicago taxpayers millions in lost revenue and we stand by our commitment to fight on their behalf. We are reviewing the court's decision to determine what further action we might take."