CHICAGO (AP) – A love affair between a former Chicago Park District official and a man whose group won a lucrative 30-year contract to operate a restaurant at Millennium Park is at the center of lawsuit filed by the city to get out of the deal.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported Monday that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration alleges Laura Foxgrover “unduly and unfairly influenced” the process that led to the city’s park district awarding the contract to operate Park Grill to a group headed by Matthew O’Malley. Investors included friends, supporters, and even a cousin of then-Mayor Richard Daley.
According to the newspaper, Foxgrover argued in a deposition that she recused herself from the negotiations, but that she did not tell park district officials about her relationship with O’Malley or that she became pregnant during negotiations. She had left a job at a restaurant O’Malley owned to take a job with the park district in 2001 while O’Malley was preparing to bid for the restaurant.
City officials say emails and other evidence indicate Foxgrover played a role in the selection even after she recused herself, with selection committee member Ed Uhlir saying in his deposition that she “was essentially staff” for the committee.
Uhlir, who also oversaw the development of Millennium Park, said had he known anything about the relationship between O’Malley and Foxgrover, he would have asked for her to “be eliminated from ever having any dealings with the committee at all.”
Foxgrover said in a deposition on July 24 that she was simply a “conduit for information” between parks superintendent David Doig and the district’s negotiators with O’Malley’s group. The park district awarded O’Malley’s group even though another bid would have meant a bigger payout to the park district.
Foxgrover left the park district 6 years ago and later married.