Patrick Daley Thompson enlists Michael Meagher of McHugh Construction as personality witness, influencing entrepreneur on city-funded Ramova theater project in Bridgeport
One of the people to testify as a character witness for Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson on his tax evasion trial is a longtime friend who works on a Bridgeport redevelopment project that has the backing of Thompson 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 Ramova Theater as part of a multi-million dollar project to turn the historic site into an arts center show with a restaurant and brewery in the heart of Bridgeport, three blocks from the Thompson Bungalow.
Thompson is to be tried on February 1 on federal charges which accuse him of cheating on his tax returns by deducting interest payments he had not made on $ 269,000 borrowed from the Washington Federal Bank for Savings. Thompson is also accused of lying to authorities about money he owed Bridgeport Bank, which federal regulators shut down four years ago over what they described as a fraud scheme massive.
Thompson – a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and a grandson of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley – and Meagher and their families have been friends for decades.
âI have a 30-year relationship and have found it to be honest and ethical,â Meagher says.
He says he expects that, if called, he will testify “to his honesty and high ethics.”
âI’ve known him from collegeâ at St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minn., Says Meagher.
He says that although the alderman supports the redevelopment of the Ramova, âPatrick has nothing to do with our involvement in this project. Zero.”
Funding from the city is a key component for the Ramova, which is in the Thompson neighborhood, and it has helped secure it. He voted with the entire Chicago City Council to lend $ 6.6 million in tax funding to the theater in the spring of 2020 and then, last May, to increase the city’s funding to $ 6.8 million. The loan could become a grant.
Thompson will not comment on plans to resuscitate the Ramova, a dilapidated property in the 3500 block of South Halsted Street that has been vacant since 1986.
Nevius – who worked for the mega-talent agency run by Ari Emanuel, brother of former mayor Rahm Emanuel – has a budget of $ 28 million for the project, including the town hall loan.
This summer, Nevius’ company, Our Revival Chicago, LLC, spent $ 4.1 million to buy nine properties for the theater project, eight of which were owned by families with long-standing ties to the Daleys. This land should house a new Ramova Grill, a brasserie, a bar and a car park.
The properties purchased by Nevius have unpaid or overdue property taxes totaling more than $ 72,000, including penalties and interest, according to records from the Cook County Treasurer’s Office.
Offers for these properties:
- Nevius paid $ 1.4 million for seven vacant lots in front of the Ramova Theater on June 30. The purchases came 28 years after Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration sold the land to Mick-Bert Construction for $ 195,000, according to records filed with the Cook County Clerk’s Office. .
Mick-Bert – owned by Dominick Bertucci and Michael Bertucci, who did not respond to calls for comment – has made more than $ 37,000 in political contributions over the years to the campaigns of members of the Daley family, including 10 $ 000 to Thompson.
The vacant lots, which also sit across from the Daley Insurance Brokerage run by Thompson’s uncle, Cook County Commissioner John Daley, will provide parking for the theater.
- 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 publication of the newspaper the last fall.
âWe sold the building and the newspaper,â says Joseph Feldman Jr ..
Feldman’s father owned the Ramova Theater for several years, during which time the town hall cited him for building code violations. The city of Chicago bought the theater from the family for $ 285,000 two decades ago, officials said. This summer, the town hall sold the theater to Nevius for $ 1.
Joseph Feldman Sr. is a relative of the former Richard M. Daley campaign treasurer, the late Patricia Kilroe, who married a cousin Daley. The Feldmans have donated more than $ 18,000 to campaigns by members of the Daley family, according to records.
The Feldman family owned one of the hundreds of dump trucks that City Hall paid to use as part of Mayor Daley’s Second Leased Truck Program, which it was forced to shut down in 2006.
This was after the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the city was spending $ 40 million a year to rent these trucks even though they had done little or no work on city construction projects and that their owners were campaign contributors to Daley and others. The Sun-Times investigation led to federal criminal charges against 49 people, including city officials and truck owners, and 48 people were jailed.
The Feldmans have never been charged with any crime.
They also have several parking lots near the United Center on the West Side. Seven years ago, city inspectors discovered that the Feldmans were also parking cars on nearby municipal property.
Emanuel’s administration also cited Feldman for parking cars on two residential lots near the United Center, land the family had acquired in a land swap with city hall. Feldman hired the law firm then known as Daley & Georges, which was run by the brother of the former mayor and former Daley town hall lawyer, Mara Georges. Georges convinced the city to rezone the land so that cars could legally park there.
- On August 24, Nevius purchased several vacant display cases between the theater entrance and the former Bridgeport News offices from businessman Kok Cheung Chin for $ 1,450,000. Chin had purchased the property for $ 500,000 in 2012. His attorney did not return the calls.
A downstater who once lived in Wicker Park, Nevius was living in Brooklyn and working in the entertainment industry in 2017 when he says he decided he wanted to pair live entertainment with a brewery.
He says friends suggested he contact Kevin Hickey, the acclaimed chef who operates the Duck Inn in Bridgeport. Hickey joined the project and Nevius moved to Chicago, renting a house from Hickey.
âWe wanted to open a concert hall with a brewery,â explains Nevius. âWe wanted to do it in Chicago and we wanted to do it on the South Side. I contacted someone in town and they showed me the place. I liked it. I said, ‘It could be fantastic.’ “
Thompson “has always been kind and always supportive,” says Nevius. âHe never stopped him. He said yes. It seems like a good team. “
His company filed an application with the town hall in August 2018 to buy the theater from the city while seeking additional tax funding to renovate the building into a space for the performing arts, a brewery and a bar and the return of the Ramova Grill.
The city says it looked for other proposals in December 2019, but no one was interested.
Nevius says he has raised funds from around 50 investors, whom he will not identify, saying âsome families have been in Bridgeport for quite some time. . . . There is no one from the Daley family or any political family that I know of.
He says the project’s $ 28 million budget includes an $ 8 million loan from an Iowa bank, investor money, and a $ 6.8 million town hall loan, which can be converted into a grant under the deal that was approved last year and earlier this year by the whole city. board, including Thompson. Nevius says he expects to receive the money from the city before the end of the year.
Meagher says his company was approached for the project around 2018. He says McHugh did other theater renovations, including working on the Civic Opera House.
The work on the Ramova, which is almost a century old, is expected to last more than a year.
McHugh is one of Chicago’s largest and oldest construction companies and a contributor to many political campaigns – including Thompson’s – which totaled over $ 400,000 in contributions to Illinois political funds in over the years, according to records.
The company has donated over $ 9,000 to Thompson’s campaign fund and has also helped him raise funds. The company also donated to campaign committees to benefit the political operations of his uncles.
McHugh and his joint ventures have received nearly $ 500 million for municipal government infrastructure projects in recent years, including bridges and overpasses and O’Hare Airport, according to city records.
Federal prosecutors named the company in a 2016 search warrant affidavit that was revealed in 2019 as part of Ald’s ongoing corruption investigation at the time. Danny Solis (25th). According to the affidavit, Solis agreed with Juan Gaytan – co-founder of Monterrey Security and friend of Meagher – to accept a tip from McHugh as a reward for “official acts” furthering McHugh’s efforts to gain approval from a “500-room hotel and data center project” near McCormick Place. McHugh has not been charged with any felony.