For almost two years, the director of the village’s building department maliciously worked to scuttle a condominium project at 7320 Madison, deliberately using his office to ensure the owner would “experience severe financial damages,” according to accusations lodged in Cook County Circuit Court.
Robert Marani, a longtime property developer and restaurateur in Forest Park, is making those claims in an effort to obtain an injunction from the court that would allow him to finish his Tuscan Lofts project.
In October 2007, the village ordered Marani to stop work on the condos, citing structural deficiencies and a substantial deviation from the approved plans. That order remains in effect to this day, though Marani claims he has made every effort to satisfy the requests of the building department.
The problem, according to court records, is that the head of the department, Mike Boyle, has either acted “carelessly and negligently” to undercut Marani’s project, or did so “intentionally and maliciously.”
Also named as defendants in the case are Mayor Anthony Calderone and Commissioner Mike Curry. Council members in Forest Park hold administrative authority over their departments and Curry is the commissioner in charge of Boyle’s department.
Boyle, however, resigned as director of the Department of Health and Public Safety roughly a week after the complaint was filed. Curry has declined to discuss any details of what prompted the resignation, and said he was unaware of Marani’s pending litigation.
Asked whether Marani’s complaint played a role in Boyle’s departure, Calderone said he too wasn’t aware of the civil action.
“I have no knowledge of the injunction,” Calderone said.
Boyle did not respond to messages left on his home answering machine.
The complaint was filed with the court July 31 following several months of meetings and correspondence between the developer and public officials. Engineers and consultants hired by Marani offered revised drawings and assurances that the work would not jeopardize the integrity of the building. However, Marani claimed Boyle did not provide those new details to the village’s consultants, thus obstructing a timely review.
Marani has sold several of the residential units in the building, but many of those customers are unhappy with the finished product. In a separate filing, Marani is being sued by those condo owners for allegedly taking shortcuts that resulted in leaky roofs and water damage.
In January 2009 – more than two years after issuing a stop work order – Boyle invoked a local ordinance that allows the village to rescind any approvals if work on the project has ceased for at least six months. In a written response sent only a few days later, Marani threatened legal action.
“I am not going to subject myself to any further persecution from yourself or the building department; for I am no longer able to sustain any more financial losses,” Marani said in a Jan. 30 letter to Boyle. “It is in your best interest to review your decisions with Commissioner Mike Curry and Mayor Anthony Calderone, prior to taking any further action, and allow you and I to meet, once again, to resolve this ongoing issue in order to forgo any legal action taken by me.”
According to the mayor, any delays in Marani’s condominium project can be attributed to his own neglect. Calderone said that to the extent he is aware of the problems surrounding the development, he fully supports the building department’s actions.
“I believe that the building department has been consistent with Marani in seeking code compliance,” Calderone said.
During an April 28 meeting between Boyle and Marani, with various consultants and attorneys present, Boyle allegedly stated that “he has no interest in resolving the issues and that he intends to persist in his efforts to block the resumption of construction of the Tuscan Lofts condominium project,” according to the complaint.
These delays have prevented Marani from selling the remaining five units in the building, according to the complaint, contributing to a Michigan bank’s attempt to foreclose on the property. The foreclosure, filed March 31, is still pending.
Also pending is the August 2008 suit filed by condo owners who claim their units are besieged by faulty craftsmanship.