Sheriff asks Robbins to suspend quarry deal
Posted in the Dixmoor Forum
#1 Nov 6, 2013
Kadner: Sheriff asks Robbins to suspend quarry deal
By Phil Kadner [email protected]
Political contributions to elected officials and “vague, misleading contract terms” are among the reasons Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart cited for asking Robbins to “suspend” its development of a limestone quarry.
In a letter to Mayor Tyrone Ward delivered Tuesday, Dart asked the village to immediately “cease and desist” efforts to acquire land through quick-take legislation.
Dart, whose office launched an investigation into the proposed development last week, states in his letter to Ward that his office has turned up “significant areas of concerns” about the village’s contract with ALM Resources LLC.
“While the village desperately needs a revenue stream,” Dart notes, a royalty schedule set forth in a May 7, 2013, Acquisitions and Development Agreement is “vague, misleading and uncertain.”
Specifically, the sheriff notes that ALM would receive 95 percent of the gross revenue generated for several years after the quarry is fully operational,“but ALM is not required to make any payments to the village until IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) has agreed to the use of aggregate products in IDOT construction projects.’”
Under the terms of the contract, Dart states,“the village will receive no revenues if they breach any terms of the Agreement.”
SouthtownStar staff writer Casey Toner revealed last month that the project would put control of 320 acres, more than 20 percent of Robbins’ land, into a private-public partnership that includes ALM Resources, the village and Rib Mountain Aggregate.
The initial phase of the industrial project would include a limestone quarry, but it later would include a large underground mine beneath existing homes and businesses and also asphalt and ready-mix plants.
The village would use its power of eminent domain to take control of the 320 acres and turn it over to the developer through the public-private partnership, called Robbins Resources.
In his letter to the mayor, Dart notes that ALM and persons and entities related to ALM made multiple contributions to the political committees of village officials, a detail first reported in the SouthtownStar.
Under the provisions of the contract with ALM, Dart indicates that Robbins would have to take “all actions reasonably necessary to obtain quick-take legislation” to authorize an expedited process to take and demolish about 50 homes.
Darts asks village officials to “cease and desist” any efforts to introduce a quick-take bill in the Legislature “during the pendency of the investigation.”
He specifically cites eight areas of concern about the agreement between Robbins and ALM.
They include a $100,000 ALM escrow payment to reimburse the village for costs associated with the introduction and passage of quick-take legislation, and a provision that ALM “shall approve any and all consultants involved with the required quick-take legislation.”
“ALM’s main office appears to be an apartment in Riverside,” the sheriff states, including a photograph of the building.
Dart raises questions about Rib Mountain Aggregate, which is to manage day-to-day mining operations of the quarry site. He says its address is listed as 703 Childs in Wheaton,“but the company is not listed on the buildings’ signage. Rib Mountain Aggregate’s phone number is answered by the Will Group, a parent company whose project list does not contain any mining projects.”
The sheriff also notes that a “provision within the contract prohibits any party from ‘challenging the validity of the contract,’ and the contract also requires the village to notify ALM of any requests made for public information related to the proposed development.
Cara Smith, a spokeswoman for Dart who worked as an assistant Illinois attorney general for several years, told me,“I have read a lot of legal documents over the years but never seen anything like this one.”
#2 Nov 6, 2013
Dart opened an investigation into the Robbins development plan after stories appeared in the SouthtownStar and a local resident called his inspector general’s office. Dart created the office of inspector general this year to assist suburban residents concerned about political corruption.
Early this year, after unprocessed rape kits, some dating to nearly 30 years ago, were found in the Robbins police evidence room, Dart held a town hall meeting with Robbins residents to announce that sheriff’s police would be patrolling the streets and assisting in criminal investigations.
Of particular interest to me is why former Mayor Irene Brodie was asked to sign the development agreement with ALM. By May 7, voters in Robbins had elected Ward as the new mayor, and he was about to take office. Brodie had announced months earlier she would not seek re-election.
For months before that, residents and others close to Brodie had questioned whether her elderly age had diminished her mental abilities. And despite questions raised at public forums, she has not issued a public statement since the development deal came to light.
In my experience, any newly elected mayor would normally howl in protest if a lame-duck mayor signed a major development deal. While Ward was a village trustee prior to becoming mayor and voted in favor of the plan, it seems strange that he wouldn’t want to be the mayor signing it and claiming the credit.
Village officials lobbied state Reps. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) and Will Davis (D-Hazel Crest) to pass quick-take legislation during the fall veto session of the General Assembly. Rita and Davis initially expressed interest but backed off after newspaper stories and public protests escalated.
ALM officials claim Robbins would eventually receive $140 million in royalty payments and property and sales tax revenue from the development.
Dart’s investigation is continuing. And that’s a very good thing.
#3 Nov 6, 2013
That dirtbag Rita wanted this deal!
#4 Nov 6, 2013
Robbins was lined up for the SHORT END OF THE STICK.
#5 Nov 6, 2013
Glad to see the department step up for Robbins, elected officials can and do get it WRONG. The project VERY OBVIOUSLY OFFERED NOTHING to the CASH STRAPPED COMMUNITY of ROBBINS!
#6 Nov 7, 2013
As a legislator, Robert Rita, 44, made $74,569 last year. He is also Calumet Township supervisor, making $67,000 a year after a 23 percent pay raise he got in June.
Until February, he also had a job as an administrative analyst with the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways, making $93,423 a year, though he didn’t get paid when he took time off to handle legislative matters.
"They include a $100,000 ALM escrow payment to reimburse the village for costs associated with the introduction and passage of quick-take legislation, and a provision that ALM “shall approve any and all consultants involved with the required quick-take legislation."
"Specifically, the sheriff notes that ALM would receive 95 percent of the gross revenue generated for several years after the quarry is fully operational,“but ALM is not required to make any payments to the village until IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) has agreed to the use of aggregate products in IDOT construction projects."
#7 Nov 8, 2013
The Investigation should continue. Elected officials who benefited from the DEAL should be prosecuted along with the individuals who hid behind this deal. The companies and individuals should not be allowed to conduct business in the state if IL., they should be reported to the Secretary of States Office, to prevent risk to other individuals and communities.
#8 Nov 9, 2013
Kadner:‘No loitering’ outside quarry office
By Phil Kadner
You might think a fellow behind a controversial, multimillion-dollar plan to build a limestone quarry and mine in suburban Robbins would do his best to alleviate public concerns about the project.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case with Jim Louthen, managing partner of ALM Resources.
ALM Resources, the development company behind a plan to acquire more than 20 percent of the land in Robbins, is at 50 Forest Ave. in Riverside.
To get there you make a turn off First Avenue (best known as the street that leads to Brookfield Zoo) and a few blocks east of Riverside Brookfield High School you will see what seems to be an old, four-story brown brick apartment building.
There’s a nice courtyard, and the entrance at 50 Forest Ave. leads to a foyer with mailboxes and a telephone to contact tenants if you want to be buzzed through a locked interior door.
ALM Resources is supposed to be in Suite G.
The mailboxes all have names on them, mostly of people, except for one labeled Town Builders Studios.
Town Builders Studios, also owned by Louthen, created Robbins’ comprehensive development plan.
A lawsuit filed by First Midwest Bank claims Louthen owes it $350,000 after defaulting on a loan.
Louthen has said he has worked out a deal with the bank to repay the money.
In any event, there is no listing I could find in the foyer of the building for ALM Resources.
Cook County sheriff’s investigators have opened up an inquiry into the Robbins limestone quarry deal and raised questions about why ALM’s office doesn’t look much like, well, an office.
I saw a notice posted above the mailboxes in the foyer addressed to “Forest Condominium Homeowners” and it tells them a new management company has been hired for the property.
A telephone in the lobby has a digital listing of residents, but I didn’t see any listing for Louthen, ALM or Town Builders.
There was a buzzer beneath the mailbox and I pushed it, but I couldn’t determine if it serves any useful function. There was no response, in any case.
Finally, I called a telephone number for Town Builders Studios using my cellphone and after several rings a woman answered.
I told her I was standing in the lobby and wanted to get inside to see the offices of ALM Resources.
She told me she would put me on hold and try to connect my call to someone from the office.
I asked the woman on the phone where she was located and after a couple of evasive answers she admitted she worked for an answering service.
After a few minutes, my call was transferred and Louthen came on the line.
I told him I am I was standing in the lobby of the apartment building where his office is and wanted to come up and look around but no on seemed to be there.
“That’s right,” Louthen said.“No one’s there. Thank you.” And then he hung up the phone.
I decided to hang around outside the building for a while to see if I could interview any of the other tenants and get some insight into Louthen or ALM Resources.
While standing on the sidewalk in front of the condo building and taking some photographs, I saw a man walking through the parking lot of the building. There are exterior stairs on the side of the building (a sort of rear entrance) leading up to condo unit doors and providing access to the lot for the people who live there.
The man, who was walking a dog, seemed to have come from that direction, so I approached him.
As I drew within a few feet, I recognized the fellow.
It was Louthen. We had met previously while I was covering the Robbins quarry story.
I said hello, introduced myself as the newspaper columnist for the SouthtownStar, and told him I wanted to see his office.
I didn’t mention the conversation on the phone five minutes earlier during which he told me no one was in his office.
#9 Nov 9, 2013
“I’m on vacation,” Louthen told me.
I apologized for interrupting his vacation, but suggested perhaps we could go into the building and see his office.
“If you call me and make an appointment, when I am not on vacation, I would be happy to show you the office,” Louthen replied.
He then walked down the street, away from the building, with the dog.
At this point, I called my editor, explained the situation, and we agreed I should hang around a few minutes longer to see if any other tenants came out.
In the meantime, my editor would check the Internet to see if there were other business tenants in the building, check for phone numbers and determine if ALM had some other address.
A couple of minutes later, Louthen returned on foot but without the dog.
“You’re loitering,” Louthen said, pointing to a sign at the entrance to the parking lot that said “private property.”
“This is private property and you are loitering. Why are you here?”
I was standing on the public sidewalk in front of the apartment building and explained I was awaiting instructions from my editor.
I held up my cellphone to emphasize the point.
“This is my community, and we don’t like loiterers,” Louthen continued.
I replied that if Louthen simply took me up to his office and showed me around, I would leave.
Louthen again said he was on vacation.
It turned out Louthen’s vehicle was parked on the street, just a few feet away, and as he walked toward it he said he was leaving now but would be passing by throughout the day and watching to see if I still was loitering.
“You understand me?” Louthen said before entering his vehicle.
I “loitered“ around a few minutes longer before leaving.
I telephoned Louthen’s office twice later in the week and left messages asking for an appointment to see his office.
My calls were not returned.
#10 Nov 9, 2013
How does Rita not know anything? He is in hiding.
#11 Nov 9, 2013
The scandal is much bigger than you think.
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