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Developer accuses Lake Geneva officials of racketeering

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Kayla Bunge
June 18, 2010
— If the city of Lake Geneva didn’t have enough legal trouble before, it has more now.

Illinois developer Robert Hummel and his development group have filed a claim seeking more than $247 million from the city—twice the amount sought in their federal lawsuit against the city—saying city officials have engaged in racketeering to prevent him from developing the 718 acres he owns on the city’s south side.


The claim alleges that city officials have worked with members of the Friends of Geneva Lake and Vote No Mirbeau-Hummel, groups known to be opposed to development of the expansive property, to “inflict economic harm and delay upon (the developer) … so as to abet an accomplice of (the city) in obtaining ownership of the property …”


The papers, served to the city June 10, likely will be sent to the city’s insurance company for review. City Attorney Dan Draper was not available for comment Thursday, but he previously has told the Gazette that the insurance company reviews such claims and advises the city how to respond.


The city has 120 days to file a response.


The action comes on top of two lawsuits pending in federal court filed last year by Hummel and Mirbeau of Geneva Lake, who together in 2007 proposed a plan for a hotel, winery and homes on the 718-acre property. It also is in addition to another claim filed in January by Hummel, who in recent years has tried to develop the property in other ways.


Hummel and Mirbeau now are seeking a total of almost $400 million in damages from the city.


The newest claim alleges city officials violated the city’s municipal code by “acting with regard to matters in which (they) maintained a personal interest.” It also alleges they conspired to “indirectly acquire ownership and control of (the property) …”


The claim states the racketeering includes:


-- Misconduct in public office.


-- Tampering with public records and notices.


-- Fraud by mail or wire.


-- False swearing.


-- Perjury.


-- Threats to injure or accuse of crime.


Hummel and Geneva Ridge are asking that:


-- City officials resign from any office or appointed position they hold or sever any association with the city.


-- City officials surrender to the city any and all pay received during their tenure as an employee.


-- Friends of Geneva Lake and Vote No Mirbeau-Hummel be dissolved.


-- The groups surrender to the Lake Geneva school fund any and all revenue received during their existence as corporation and political action committee, respectively.


They also are seeking $247.1 million in actual damages in addition to punitive damages and attorney’s fees.


LEGAL ACTION

Illinois developer Robert Hummel and Mirbeau of Geneva Lake, who together in 2007 proposed a plan for a hotel, winery and homes on 718 acres on the city’s south side, are seeking a total of almost $400 million in damages from the city.


-- Mirbeau in July filed a lawsuit seeking more than $29.1 million in damages, alleging the city “acted maliciously” toward Mirbeau and deprived Mirbeau of its rights by asking voters in an advisory referendum in April 2008 whether the city should approve the rezone request and general development plan. The lawsuit is pending in federal court.


-- Hummel in October filed a lawsuit seeking more than $99.8 million in damages, alleging the city put him and his development group, Geneva Ridge Joint Venture, in a “class of one” when it considered in August 2008 a proposed development of the property he owns. The lawsuit is pending in federal court. Hummel in May amended the lawsuit, alleging city officials conspired to prevent development of his property and covered up evidence of their actions.


-- Hummel in January served the city with a claim seeking more than $23.7 million in damages, alleging the city during its Smart Growth planning process intentionally treated him unfairly with regard to development of his property.


-- Hummel last week served the city with a claim seeking more than $247.1 million in damages, alleging city officials engaged in racketeering to prevent him from developing the property he owns.



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