One Rockford citizen speaks up in an effort to expose what he calls hidden information. Brian Leggero's targeting a realty group with ties to the city's top leader.
When it comes to Rockford's Mid Town Tax Increment Financing District, Leggero has done his homework. Last year, he starting looking into the TIF and a project within its boundaries.
"It was Mid Town Lofts, LLC, which is managed by Morrissey Realty Group, which is a company Mayor Larry Morrissey started. He says he recused himself once he became mayor, but that drew a flag to me that he would own the company." -Leggero explains.
Mid Town Lofts bought a building on 7th Street a decade ago to fix up and turn into commercial and residential property. Since it's in a TIF district, part of the development agreement included the city providing $800,000 to the group for building acquisition and construction. Leggero checked out the numbers and saw that Mid Town Lofts has spent roughly $400,000 of that for property improvements.
"As we can see by the state of the building, it's obvious to me that none of the money was spent there and I think the taxpayers deserve to know where the money went and why it wasn't spent on this project." -says Leggero, who thinks the building looks blighted on the outside.
Morrissey Realty Group's lawyer Michael Schirger of Schirger Law Offices, LLC, assures the property has $400,000 worth of work inside those walls.
"There's a lot of demolition costs, there's contractor fees, professional fees, construction fees, carpenters, electricians, plumbers." -he lists.
Schirger says the economy's to blame for the building's slow development.
"We're hoping at this point to, perhaps, work with another developer and with the city to push the project forward."
Leggero has reached out to Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to check out these so-called "development expenses." The city of Rockford's Legal Department started its own investigation.
"The developer has provided us with the preliminary list of expenditures and the city has requested, and they are assembling, invoices and things like that responsive to our follow-up questions and we'll continue to make certain our initial conclusions, which are that the expenditures were appropriate, holds true on full inspection." -says city Legal Director Patrick Hayes.
Hayes acknowledges tough economic times for Mid Town Lofts, but they're not getting off scot-free for slow movement. Every month the project isn't completed the group owes the city $1,000. They started paying that penalty last month.
Mayor Morrissey has kept consistent with his statement that he is uninvolved with any business at Morrissey Realty Group and has been since he took office in 2005.
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