A federal judge has quickly dismissed a civil rights lawsuit filed against the Village of Forest Park three weeks ago by embattled restaurateur and developer Robert Marani. Six days after receiving the case and without a hearing or lawyers present, U.S. District Court Judge Ruben Castillo dismissed a suit claiming that Marani’s civil rights were violated by actions the village’s building department took during a condo conversion on Madison Street.
The project at the center of the suit is the Tuscan Lofts development at 7320-7322 Madison, the 1920s building on the southeast corner of the Circle intersection. Among the residential and commercial condos there is the space of Briolette Beads & More, the specialty shop that’s faced a series of closings because of water damage attributed to construction issues in the condo conversion.
Castillo dismissed the case “without prejudice,” which means he made no ruling on its merits – a decision that allows Marani to file the case again, if he wants to. But the judge laid out a condition: “The parties are requested to meet and fully exhaust all settlement possibilities prior to filing any further pleadings,” Castillo wrote in his order.
In the suit, first filed in Cook County Circuit Court, Marani claimed that the village violated his civil rights, interfered in his business relationships, inflicted emotional distress and denied him equal protection under the law.
Named as defendants in the suit are the Village of Forest Park; Mike Boyle, who had been head of the village’s building department before abruptly resigned last summer; Mike Curry, the village commissioner of public health and safety who oversees the building department; and the village council.
The village had issued a stop-work order on the condo project in October 2007. Marani has publicly pointed to that village action and said the setbacks caused by it were irrevocable. In the suit, Marani details the financial harm: the loss of more than $600,000 when, because of the stop-work order, he couldn’t close on the sale of two residential condos, and “significant expense” to treat “emotional distress, including severe hypertension, anxiety and depression requiring medical treatment.”
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.
In the suit, Marani says the village ignored his efforts to resolve issues and refused to let him proceed with work necessary to fix problems. He claims that Boyle had a vendetta against him and sought to cause him financial harm.
“I didn’t have a vendetta against Robert Marani nor anybody else,” said Boyle, who now works as the director of environmental health for Grundy County.
Marani initially filed the suit in Cook County Circuit Court in 2009, seeking an injunction to prevent the village from enforcing the stop-work order. This June, Marani amended that suit to charge that his civil rights were violated by the village’s actions.
Marani’s lawyer, Maria Cristiano, of the Oak Park firm Pellegrini & Cristiano, could not be reached for comment.
Marani, who was reached, declined to give his reaction to the judge’s ruling.
“I have no comments,” Marani told the Review last week. “I’m real sorry.”