Editor's note: This article has been revised to include statements from City of Harvey Alderman Keith Price, responding to the lawsuit. The article has also been revised to correct the address of the property at question in the referenced lawsuit.
The city of Harvey, an alderman and a man identified as the brother of the mayor, who may or may not be a police officer, are facing a lawsuit from two businesses alleging city officials conducted harassing inspections and improperly seized vehicles, among other disciplinary action.
The alderman named in the complaint, however, says the lawsuit is "frivolous" and only an attempt to thwart the city and its officials from enforcing city ordinances requiring businesses to hold licenses and to maintain their properties.
American Kitchen Delights Inc., and owner Shahnawaz Hasan, a Harvey resident, joined with Chicago Express Towing LLC, of Burr Ridge, and its owner, Fadi Isbaih, in suing Harvey, as well as Alderman Keith Price and Derrick Muhammad, a retired plumber whom the plaintiffs said “purports to be a Harvey police officer, but the records of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Board do not list him as such.”
Though not named as a defendant, AKDI — a private-label food manufacturer — and Express note Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg is Muhammad’s brother. The plaintiffs also referenced a Chicago Tribune “expose on the corrupt practices of Harvey” and referenced an ongoing public corruption probe.
Hasan said Muhammad and others “invaded” its property at 146 E. 147th St., “attempted to convey title to a third party, broke locks, broke into the building … and removed personal property. Muhammad has in the past threatened Hasan and AKDI employees with a gun and operates more as a thug or gang member than a legitimate representative of government.” He further said Harvey police “declined to intervene, saying it was a civil dispute.”
Although AKDI obtained a restraining order “against Harvey and its henchmen and co-conspirators” earlier this year, according to the complaint, the city later sent inspectors in search of the origin of grease found in the public sewer, which the companies say was a “false claim” as the city conducted no testing, nor did it detect the dyes AKDI puts in its sewer system. Still, the complaint asserts the city levied the maximum $1,500 fine.
AKDI also said the city won’t grant it permits to erect a protective fence, nor will it issue a business license. When Hasan raised the issue at an Aug. 13 City Council meeting, he said Price defended Kellogg, threatened the license would never be issued and suggested the city would tow the cars parked on AKDI-owned property, which the company owns in accordance with a redevelopment agreement it signed with the city.
The complaint said Price ordered Harvey police to tow 17 vehicles, all of which were lawfully parked and some of with belonged to an adjacent car dealership, while others belonged to Express awaiting public auction. Fadi said when he went to the police to report the vehicles stolen — purportedly not knowing of the dispute between the city and AKDI — Muhammad said he was fining Fadi $500 and charging $50 per car to release them.
Fadi further said Muhammad ordered him to take all his items from the AKDI property and leave it open, which he asserted would violate the city ordinance requiring all unoccupied buildings to be secured. Fadi said he went to the companies that towed the cars, but they would not release the vehicles without Muhammad’s approval. He also alleged Muhammad continues “ducking and hiding” in order to rack up daily storage fees on the cars, all despite the failure to comply with a city ordinance that limits tow fees to $55 and does not authorize storage fees.
The plaintiffs want the court to release the vehicles without fee, as well as award damages and legal costs. They also seek a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction barring the city, Price and Muhammad from entering their property without a warrant or court order and preventing further retaliation and harassment.
Representing the plaintiffs in the matter is Dennis Both, of Harvey.
In response to the lawsuit, Price, a three-term alderman who has announced his intention to seek election as Harvey's mayor. said the lawsuit is a "scare tactic."
"It's an attempt to make me be quiet about this property, which I will not do," Price said, in a phone conversation with The Cook County Record.
Price said he has received numerous complaints from city residents about the condition of the property and particularly about the presence of containers on the property, which he said appear to be filled with fluid. He said the property owners have not identified the fluid.
Price asserted the owners of the property allowed the property to deteriorate, rather than improve it to meet the goals they had asserted when first securing the property some time ago.
"I want him (Hasan) to be held accountable to what he said he would do with the property," Price said. "It's not harassment when businesses don't have occupancy permits, or permits for a car yard, tow lot, or anything.
"All I'm doing is my job, holding them accountable for the upkeep of the property. Period."