Embattled restaurateur and property developer Robert Marani is suing the Village of Forest Park in federal court. Marani is claiming his civil rights were violated by actions the village’s building department took as he was developing the 1920s building at the southeast corner of Circle and Madison into residential and commercial condominiums.
The project, at 7320-7322 Madison, is known as Tuscan Lofts. The development includes the commercial condo of Briolette Beads & More, the specialty shop that recently faced a series of temporary closings because of water damage attributed to construction issues in the condo conversion.
The village had issued a stop-work order on the entire condo project in October 2007. Marani has publicly pointed to that village action and said the setbacks this order caused were irrevocable. The complaint alleges that the village ignored Marani’s efforts to resolve issues with the building and refused to let him proceed with necessary work to fix problems.
His suit, filed last week in federal district court, names as defendants the Village of Forest Park; Mike Boyle, the village’s former director of Public Health and Safety; Mayor Anthony Calderone; village commissioner Mike Curry, and the Commission of the Village of Forest Park.
Calderone and Curry are only sued in their official capacities while Boyle, who abruptly resigned from his village post last summer, is sued both individually and in his official capacity.
The complaint alleges that Boyle deliberately put roadblocks into Marani’s efforts to resume work on the building after the village issued a stop-work order on the project. “Boyle’s actions and demands became a personal vendetta,” the complaint says.
Boyle, Calderone and Curry all said that they were unaware of the federal lawsuit until told of it by the Review.
“I didn’t have a vendetta against Robert Marani nor anybody else. But as far as anything that’s alleged in this suit, I haven’t read it, haven’t seen it, haven’t been notified of it, so I couldn’t really comment any further on it,” said Boyle, who now works as the director of environmental health for Grundy County.
The complaint charges that Marani was treated differently by the village than was his former business partner Gaetano DiBenedetto, whom the village didn’t fine when approved plans last year for an open patio at his namesake restaurant morphed into a fully enclosed expansion.
Calderone said that he could not comment on a lawsuit he’s not seen.
Marani claims the defendants’ actions caused him financial harm, including the loss of more than $600,000 when the village’s stop-work order prevented him from closing on the sale of two condominiums. According to the complaint, Marani also suffered “severe emotional distress including severe hypertension, anxiety and depression requiring medical treatment and significant expense.”
Marani declined to talk about the suit.
More than a year has passed since Fifth Third Bank began foreclosure proceedings against Marani for this property. In that time, residential condo owners on the building’s second and third floors have complained of multiple incidents of indoor flooding. The bead shop has installed an indoor gutter to cope with water leaks.
“I haven’t seen the lawsuit,” said Curry, a commissioner who is also a lawyer.
“It’s something obviously our attorneys will handle in a diligent and professional manner. Whether a lawsuit is legitimate or frivolous, I have full faith and confidence in our attorneys to handle this.”