Former Mayor Richard M. Daley is in “excellent health” his brother, Cook County Comissioner John Daley, said last week when asked about the former mayor’s recovery from a reported stroke last winter.
That prognosis differs from claims made this week by the former mayor’s attorneys, who want to keep Richard M. Daley from taking the witness stand in a civil case seeking to undo a sweetheart deal inked under his adminstration.
“He’s doing fine. He’s in excellent health and traveling,” John Daley said when asked about his brother following a City Club public affairs luncheon. “He was down in Texas last week at the mayor’s conference and he’s in good health and doing well. Thank you very much for asking.”
In contrast, on Wednesday the former mayor’s attorneys filed a legal motion citing “medical hardship” as a reason to keep Daley off the witness stand in City Hall’s lawsuit to break a sweetheart lease given to the Park Grill restaurant in Millennium Park while Daley was mayor.
Daley’s attorneys declined to elaborate on the “medical hardship” in the motion, which asks Cook County Circuit Court Judge Moshe Jacobius to quash the subpoena the former mayor received from the Park Grill’s attorneys.
“In light of the significant privacy interests at issue and publicity concerns relating to Mr. Daley’s status as a public figure, an affidavit supporting this assertion can be provided to the court, if necessary, for in camera review,” Daley’s attorney Terrence Burns wrote in a motion that will discussed Tuesday when the Park Grill trial resumes.
Daley reportedly suffered a stroke earlier this year when he was rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Jan. 31, the day his nephew Richard J. Vanecko pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for throwing the punch that killed David Koschman a decade ago.
Besides the former mayor’s unspecified medical hardship, Burns argued “there is no good cause for compelling” Daley to testify at the trial because he had little recollection about the Park Grill deal during a lengthy deposition he gave last summer.
“His deposition testimony established he had little to no substantive recollection concerning the issues and events about which he was questioned,” Burns wrote. “He testified he lacked recollection of conversations regarding approval of concession agreements for Millennium Park or the status of Park Grill negotiations. He testified he did not know if there was anything improper about how Park Grill got the contract.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel filed suit against the Park Grill three years ago, calling the 30-year deal “a lopsided contract that cheated taxpayers” out of $8 million in revenue since the restaurant opened in 2004.
City Hall maintains the lease was illegal because the park district let the restaurant operate on land controlled by the city without seeking permission from the City Council. While the park district was negotiating the deal, one of the Park Grill’s operators, Matthew O’Malley, had an affair with a top park district official, Laura Foxgrover, who became pregnant.
Park Grill’s attorneys have planned to call Daley as their star witness. O’Malley and his partner James Horan were trying to sell the Park Grill’s management company for $8 million shortly before the Emanuel administration sued.
O’Malley and Horan argue that City Hall never objected to the park district lease during the many meetings they had with Daley and his staff as they planned the restaurant construction.