One of the people who are supposed to testify as a character witness for Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson on his income tax fraud litigation is a longtime friend working on a redevelopment project in Bridgeport that is backed by Thompson’s support and $ 6.8 million from City Hall.
The friend, Michael Meagher, is President of McHugh Construction, which was hired by developer Tyler Nevius to restore the closed Ramova Theater as part of a multi-million dollar project to turn the historic site into a performing arts center with a restaurant and brewery in the heart of Bridgeport, three blocks from Thompson’s bungalow.
Thompson is due to be tried on February 1 on federal charges alleging he cheated on his income tax return by deducting interest payments on $ 269,000 borrowed from the Washington Federal Bank for Savings, had not done. Thompson is also accused of lying to authorities about the money he owed the Bridgeport bank, which federal regulators shut down four years ago over what they termed a massive fraud scheme.
Thompson – a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and a grandson of late Mayor Richard J. Daley – and Meagher and their families have been friends for decades.
“I’ve had a 30-year relationship and I’ve found him honest and ethical,” says Meagher.
He says he expects that if he calls, he will testify to “his honesty and high ethics”.
“I’ve known him since college” at St. Mary’s University of Winona, Minnesota, says Meagher.
Although the city council supports the redevelopment of the Ramova, he says, “Patrick has nothing to do with our involvement in this project. Zero.”
City funding is a key component for the Ramova residing in Thompson’s community, and he helped secure it. He voted, along with the entire Chicago City Council, to give the theater a $ 6.6 million tax hike in the spring of 2020 and then increase city funding to $ 6.8 million last May. The loan could be a grant.
Thompson will not comment on plans to revive the Ramova, a dilapidated property on the 3500 block of South Halsted Street that has been vacant since 1986.
Nevius – who worked for former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s brother Ari Emanuel’s mega-talent agency – has a budget of $ 28 million on the project, including the town hall loan.
That summer, Nevius’ firm Our Revival Chicago, LLC spent $ 4.1 million buying nine properties for the theater project, including eight belonging to families with long-standing Daleys ties. A new Ramova grill, a brewery, a pub and a parking lot are to be built on this land.
The properties Nevius purchased have unpaid or arrears in total property taxes totaling more than $ 72,000, including penalties and interest, according to the Cook County Treasurer’s records.
The offers for these properties:
- Nevius paid $ 1.4 million on June 30 for seven vacant lots across from the Ramova Theater. The purchases came 28 years after Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration sold the property to Mick-Bert Construction for $ 195,000.
Mick-Bert – owned by Dominick Bertucci and Michael Bertucci who did not answer calls for comment – has donated more than $ 37,000 in political contributions over the years to the Daley family members’ campaigns, including US $ 10,000 Dollars to Thompson.
Parking will be provided for the theater on the vacant lots, also across from Daley Insurance Brokerage, operated by Thompson’s Uncle Cook County Commissioner John Daley.
- On August 20, Nevius paid $ 1,285,000 for a two-story building at 3506 S. Halsted St. that housed the Bridgeport News until the Feldman family, who live in Naperville, ceased publishing the paper last fall.
“We sold the building and the newspaper,” says Joseph Feldman Jr.
Feldman’s father owned the Ramova Theater for several years, during which the town hall sued him for violating building codes. The city of Chicago bought the theater from the family for $ 285,000 two decades ago, officials say. That summer City Hall sold the theater to Nevius for $ 1.
Joseph Feldman Sr. is a relative of Richard M. Daley’s former campaign cashier, the late Patricia Kilroe, who married Daley’s cousin. The Feldmans donated more than $ 18,000 to the Daley family members’ campaigns, records show.
The Feldman family owned one of hundreds of dump trucks that City Hall paid for as part of Second Mayor Daley’s Hired Truck Program, which he had to hire in 2006.
That was after the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the city was spending $ 40 million a year renting these trucks despite doing little or no work on urban development projects and that their owners were campaign donors for Daley and others . The Sun-Times investigation resulted in federal criminal charges against 49 people, including city officials and truck owners, and 48 people who were jailed.
The Feldmans have never been charged with a crime.
They also have several parking lots near the United Center on the West Side. Seven years ago city inspectors found that the Feldmans also parked cars on nearby city property.
Emanuel’s administration also cited Feldman for parking cars on two residential lots near the United Center, land the family acquired in a land swap with City Hall. Feldman hired the law firm then known as Daley & Georges, run by the former mayor’s brother and Daley’s former top city hall attorney, Mara Georges. Georges convinced the city to rededicate the land so that cars could legally park there.
- On August 24, Nevius bought several vacant storefronts between the theater entrance and the former Bridgeport News offices from businessman Kok Cheung Chin for $ 1,450,000. Chin bought the property in 2012 for $ 500,000. His lawyer didn’t answer.
Nevius, a downstater who once lived in Wicker Park, was living in Brooklyn and working in the entertainment industry in 2017 when he said he decided to combine live entertainment with a brewery.
He says friends suggested he contact Kevin Hickey, the celebrated chef who runs the Duck Inn in Bridgeport. Hickey joined the project and Nevius moved to Chicago and rented a house from Hickey.
“We wanted to open a music meeting place with a brewery,” says Nevius. “We wanted to do it in Chicago and we wanted to do it on the South Side. I contacted someone out of town and they showed me the venue. I loved it. I said, ‘That could be fantastic.’ ”
Thompson “was always nice and always supportive,” says Nevius. “He never stopped doing it. He said yes. It seems like a good team. ‘ ”
His company filed an application with City Hall in August 2018 to buy the theater from the city while requesting tax increase funding to renovate the building into a performing arts space, brewery and taproom, and return the Ramova Grill.
The city says it looked for other proposals in December 2019, but no one was interested.
Nevius says he’s raised money from about 50 investors he doesn’t want to identify and says, “Some of the families have been in Bridgeport for a while. . . . I don’t know anyone from the Daley family or any political family. ”
He says the project’s $ 28 million budget includes an $ 8 million loan from an Iowa bank, funds from investors, and the city hall’s $ 6.8 million loan, which is part of the Agreement, which was approved by the entire city last year and earlier this year, can be converted into a grant to Council, including Thompson. Nevius says he expects to get the money from town before the end of the year.
Meagher says his company was tapped for the project around 2018. He says McHugh did other theater renovations, including work on the Civic Opera House.
The work on the almost 100-year-old Ramova is expected to take over a year.
McHugh is one of Chicago’s largest and oldest construction companies and a contributor to numerous political campaigns – including that of Thompsons – that have donated more than $ 400,000 to Illinois political funds over the years, records show.
The company donated more than $ 9,000 to Thompson’s campaign fund, and also helped him raise money. The company has also donated to campaign committees that benefit his uncles’ political operations.
McHugh and his joint ventures have raised nearly $ 500 million for city government infrastructure projects in recent years, including bridges and viaducts and O’Hare Airport, city records show.
The federal prosecutor named the company in an affidavit from 2016, which became known in 2019 as part of the ongoing corruption investigations against the then Ald. Danny Solis (25th). According to the affidavit, Solis agreed with Juan Gaytan – co-founder of Monterrey Security and a friend of Meagher’s – to accept a tip from McHugh as a reward for “official acts” that favor McHugh’s efforts to get approval for “a 500-room hotel.” “Win and Data Center Project” near McCormick Place. McHugh was not charged with any crime.