Lawsuit accuses Broadview village officials of asking bribe, torpedoing property sale worth millions

By The Cook County Record | May 24, 2017

A man who recently sold a commercial property worth millions in Broadview has sued the west suburba village, its former mayor and current building commissioner, alleging they torpedoed an earlier sale of the property and cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars by withholding approval of a tax incentive when the previous buyer balked at a request from village officials for a “campaign donation.”

On May 18, plaintiff Jim Pearson filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court, alleging counts of negligence, fraud and inducement. Named defendants in the lawsuit included the village of Broadview; Village May Sherman Jones; Village Building Commissioner David Upshaw and the village’s board of trustees.

According to the lawsuit, Pearson had arranged for the sale of his property at 2601 S. 25th Avenue in Broadview for $2.75 million. However, the sale apparently relied on the ability of Pearson to obtain a renewal of a special tax classification for the property, known in Cook County as a Class 6B classification, which would entitle the property owner to certain industrial redevelopment incentives.

Pearson’s complaint said he had obtained the initial approval for the Class 6B classification in 2005 from both the Cook County Assessor’s office and from Broadview Village Hall.

In Sept. 2014, as he prepared for the sale of the South 25th Avenue property, Pearson said he sent a letter to then-Mayor Jones and the village’s board, informing them he had applied with the Assessor’s office to renew the 6B classification. However, the approval of that classification depended on the village’s approval.

Pearson said he was then informed the village was no longer approving “any 6B resolutions.”

However, soon after, Pearson alleged the would-be buyers of Pearson’s property approached the village about the 6B classification, and were informed by Building Commissioner Upshaw that “a $50,000 campaign donation would make the process go much smoother.”

The complaint does not specify whose campaign the alleged donation request would benefit.

However, the complaint said the buyer then “refused” the alleged donation request, and “rescinded their contract offer.”

Pearson eventually sold the property two years later, but for about $400,000 less, he said in his complaint.

And, Pearson later learned the village also approved a 6B resolution in February 2016 for the new buyer, identified in the complaint as Graymills Corporations, “even though they were not yet the owner of the property at the time the resolution was passed.”

A later Freedom of Information Act request allegedly revealed that 6B application “was undated, unsigned, and was not stamped as being received by the Assessor’s Office.”

Pearson alleged this meant the village and its officials had committed fraud by leading him to believe the village was no longer approving 6B applications, when it actually was, and that the village and its officials had made those “false statements to induce a bribe for the issuance of a 6B renewal.”

Pearson has asked the court to order the village to pay him $400,000 in actual damages, plus $400,000 more in punitive damages.

Pearson is represented in the action by attorney Don Perry, of Orland Park.

Jones was replaced as mayor in April 2017 by Katrina Thompson. Jones was then elected to the village’s board of trustees.

No representative of Broadview could be reached for comment prior to publication, and did not reply to an email or phone messages. Upshaw did not return phone messages left for him.

Cook County Case No. 2017L005081

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