Feds probing alleged payments to Riverdale mayor by owners of landscaping and recycling firm – Chicago Tribune

The mayor of Riverdale is underneath federal investigation for allegedly receiving secret funds from a landscaping supplies and recycling agency that was granted approval to open within the south suburb a number of years in the past regardless of the protests of a rival firm, in accordance with information and sources aware of the probe.

A federal grand jury subpoena despatched to the village by the U.S. legal professional’s workplace two weeks in the past demanded contracts, funds, communications and different information pertaining to the corporate, Riverdale Materials LLC, and its house owners, James and Kelly Bracken, in accordance with a duplicate of the subpoena obtained by the Tribune via an open information request.

The subpoena, which was dated May 9, additionally requested information pertaining to Riverdale Mayor Lawrence Jackson, together with any ethics or conflict-of-interest statements he has signed throughout his tenure.

“Such records should include any disclosures of outside employment or records indicating additional employment,” the subpoena acknowledged.

Investigators additionally requested any and all information pertaining to Centennial Holdings LLC, an organization Jackson based in 2018 itemizing his Riverdale house as its precept workplace, information present.

One day after the subpoena was issued, the FBI raided Jackson’s small brick bungalow within the 14500 block of South Union Avenue that he shares along with his spouse.

Sources with information of the investigation advised the Tribune that it entails allegations that the Brackens have been secretly funneling cash to Jackson and a relative across the identical time the mayor was serving to approve permits the corporate wanted to function.

The probe is ongoing, and no legal costs have been filed. The mayor couldn’t instantly be reached Friday for remark. Messages left for each James and Kelly Bracken had not been returned.

Riverdale Materials, which opened in 2017, touts itself as a “well-equipped, locally sourced aggregate material supplier” that serves the higher Chicago space, together with northwest Indiana.

“Besides supplying high-quality materials, Riverdale Materials is also a transfer facility able to recycle a variety of materials including dirt, concrete, brick and asphalt, allowing you to keep up with the best practices in the industry,” the corporate’s web site states.

State marketing campaign information present firms affiliated with James and Kelly Bracken have donated greater than $30,000 to Jackson’s marketing campaign fund from 2016 to 2021, together with an $8,177 in-kind contribution supporting Jackson’s 2019 golf outing at George Dunne National golf membership in Oak Forest.

The donations have been made via three Markham-based firms owned by the Brackens: Brackenbox Inc., KLF Excavating and Utility Transport Services, Inc. All three of these firms have been named within the subpoena despatched to Riverdale.

Another Bracken-owned firm named within the subpoena, Morris Dirt, lists the Riverdale Materials web site as considered one of its enterprise addresses, information present. According to its web site, Morris Dirt sells topsoil and pulverized soil that has “minimal rocks to interfere with the health of plants, flowers and grass.”

Riverdale Materials, in the meantime, is at the moment embroiled in a federal lawsuit filed in 2018 by Tri-State Disposal, which operates the same facility on South Ashland Avenue and for years had contracts for rubbish hauling in Riverdale, court docket information present.

In 2017, Tri-State opposed Riverdale Materials’ enterprise utility to the village board, arguing the corporate was not abiding by strict environmental necessities and was hiding unlawful waste dumping on its property.

According to the lawsuit, which is pending in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Jackson stacked the deck in favor of Riverdale Materials, together with firing the chair of the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals and loading it with “persons politically connected to the mayor.”

After the board accepted the applying for Riverdale Materials, Jackson had an indication along with his picture posted on the firm’s web site stating “ANOTHER BUSINESS BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE HONORABLE MAYOR LAWRENCE JACKSON,” in accordance with the swimsuit, which included a picture of the signal.

“Despite strong opposition from the plaintiff and the public, this matter was politically rigged from the beginning in favor of Riverdale Materials and to the detriment of the people of the Village of Riverdale, and their health, safety, welfare and environment,” the lawsuit alleged.

In addition to the zoning board allegations, the lawsuit additionally accused the village of breach of contract after Riverdale introduced in March 2018 that it could not be renewing Tri-State’s contract for rubbish pickup.

The subsequent month, Jackson despatched Tri-State a letter on official Riverdale letterhead accusing the corporate of a “hostile and harassing style of communication,” together with “telephone calls on my personal cellphone that I deemed to be inappropriate and offensive,” in accordance with a duplicate of the letter filed in court docket information.

“I am requesting that Tri-State Disposal cease all communication by telephone,” Jackson’s letter learn. “Going forth, all communication must be in writing. This policy will ensure a respectable means of communication until we are able to sever and end our contractual obligations.”

U.S. District Judge Sara Ellis dismissed among the claims within the lawsuit in 2019. The village, in the meantime, has requested the choose to dismiss the remaining counts, arguing in a movement for abstract judgment filed in January that the allegations are “supported only by speculation and conjecture.”

An legal professional representing Riverdale and the mayor within the lawsuit, John Wise, mentioned in an announcement to the Tribune that the village “is confident that the remaining counts of the complaint will be dismissed pursuant to the summary judgment motion, just as numerous other counts have previously been dismissed as baseless.”

The legal investigation of Jackson is the most recent federal probe involving Riverdale, which has a inhabitants of about 13,000 and has lengthy been beset by funds woes and allegations of corruption.

First elected mayor in 2013, Jackson is serving his third straight time period after besting rival and former Riverdale Mayor Deyon Dean within the 2021 major.

In 2014, Chicago actual property developer and ex-government mole John Thomas was sentenced to five years in federal jail after pleading responsible to stealing greater than $375,000 in taxpayer funds earmarked for a improvement alongside the Little Calumet River in Riverdale. He admitted utilizing the money to repay private money owed and different bills.

Jackson advised the Tribune in an interview on the time that regardless that Thomas was ordered to pay again the embezzled cash, Riverdale would proceed to really feel the repercussions of his fraud for years.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but unfortunately the village of Riverdale will never be made whole because of the deceptive, fraudulent practices of Mr. Thomas,” Jackson mentioned then.

In his final bid for reelection, Jackson advised the Daily Southtown he had a document of value financial savings, improved effectivity and higher accountability.

“When I came into office in 2013, this village was saddled in lawsuits and investigations,” Jackson mentioned. “We couldn’t pay our bills. I’ve been able to stabilize government. We renegotiated contracts, restructured debt and got Riverdale on a path to solvency.”

Jackson, who beforehand served as a Cook County corrections officer, is paid a $69,900 annual wage, plus well being advantages and an car allowance, in accordance with the village code.

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