Judge rejects bid to force Arwady deposition in General Iron case

The public health commissioner won’t be required to answer questions under oath after permit denial.

SHARE Judge rejects bid to force Arwady deposition in General Iron case
Activists protest and rally against a General Iron plant being relocated to the Southeast Side of Chicago in March 2021.

Dr. Allison Arwady will not be required to sit for a deposition in Reserve Management Group’s challenge of the city’s denial of a permit for its Southeast Side scrap-metal operation.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

A bid to force the city’s top public health official to answer questions under oath about rejecting a Southeast Side scrap-metal operation was denied by an administrative judge Monday.

Reserve Management Group is trying to overturn a permit decision for the relocated General Iron by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration. As part of that effort, a company lawyer sought to make Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady sit for a deposition, something that a city lawyer called “totally unnecessary.”

Administrative law judge Mitchell Ex sided with the city, noting that Arwady is busy with other public health matters, including the continuing challenges created by COVID-19.

At the city’s request, Megan Cunningham, Chicago’s managing deputy commissioner for public health, will instead be questioned. A hearing date for Aug. 15 has been set to decide the timing for that deposition.

The Lightfoot administration signed an agreement with Reserve Management in 2019 that created a timetable for the company to move the General Iron metal-shredding operation from its longtime home in Lincoln Park to the Southeast Side. Reserve Management held off on its acquisition of General Iron until it had a signed agreement with the city.

Under the timeline, Reserve Management closed the Lincoln Park location along the North Branch of the Chicago River at the end of 2020. Confident that it had the city’s blessing to open a new site at East 116th Street along the Calumet River, the company built a new facility on the Southeast Side.

Reserve Management has argued that Lightfoot didn’t follow the city’s rules on deciding a final permit needed for the metal-shredding operation to open.

In a filing in the city’s administrative court, the company said the city made a decision that was a “result of bad faith, bias and/or improper political influence.”

Southeast Side residents fought against the opening of the business and even filed a federal civil rights complaint over the matter. Federal officials recently accused the city of discriminatory zoning and land-use practices that led up to the proposed relocation of General Iron from white, wealthy Lincoln Park to a South Side Latino-majority community surrounded by Black neighborhoods.

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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