Agenda #9 in the FLR (Finance, License, and Regulation Committee) meeting on September 1st, 2020 is a sitting time bomb that began ticking ten years ago.
There was no information in any city council packet about it, but a sizeable explosion is about to go off in October. The Peller issue (item #9) on the FLR meeting agenda is about the City of Lake Geneva giving 10-year interest-free deferred assessments on the Edwards Blvd Extension, which are now coming due in October 2020.
Item #9 reads: “Discussion/Recommendation on the Peller Assessment” that is due in October 2020.
In a clever maneuver that occurred ten years ago, the City of Lake Geneva offered a ten-year interest-free deferred payment of the Edwards Blvd Extension assessments. If paid back then, the money would have been put into the TIF#4 fund to which the money is owed. The city, knowing TIF#4 would be closed before the payments became due, and the city would collect those assessments as a windfall in 2020 and, like other city assessments, put them into the general fund from which normal bills and payments are disbursed. This possibility became public knowledge early on and the issue was raised during the Peller lawsuit against the City of Lake Geneva. The issue was again raised when TIF#4 was being closed, but both times it was ignored.
What is the city going to do with the deferred assessments due to TIF#4? The assessments that were deferred were listed as $1,186,742.35 in the approved Resolution No. 10-R60, which included the Peller assessment that had been increased from $345,857.99 to $521,533.13 only hours before the city council voted on, and approved the resolution. Peller sued the city and won, as reported on February 7, 2013. There was an interesting comment in the last line in a newspaper article about it that read: “The city pays its own portion of the special assessment.”
In fact, the city also owes the tax of any tax-exempt property on the Edwards Blvd. Extension. But the city has not paid any assessments due to TIF#4, nor have they paid the assessment of the former gas company property that the city inherited when it purchased the property. With the city’s policy of destroying city records over seven years old, even some of those records that the city is required to retain may be lost. Further complicating the issue is that the City of Lake Geneva is short of revenue because of the Coronavirus. This makes the Edwards Blvd Extension assessments tempting, but corruption is corruption, no matter how good or well-intended. Good government does the right thing, and good people do the right thing, and it is not always easy, as pointed out in JFK’s book “Profiles in Courage”.
A second question to consider is that, with the FLR having the authority to approve financial transactions, will this issue even get to the city council for approval, since the payment of assessments does not require such city council approval?