When we experience déjà vu, it creates and leaves a strange eerie feeling. That eerie uneasy feeling gets magnified a hundred fold when the déjà vu feeling seems to be foretelling that an ominous disaster is about to occur. Such was the feeling experienced at the last City Council meeting when the Council approved the hiring of an outside attorney to review the legality of the Geneva Inn’s pre-annexation agreement. The vote was split, 4 for it, 2 against it, with 2 being absent. The pre-annexation agreement involves the City of Lake Geneva receiving money (property tax & Room Tax) from the Geneva Inn, and requiring the City of Lake Geneva as part of the annexation, to make specified zoning changes for the Geneva Inn. An attorney would have to be legally blind not to see the obvious transfer of cash (tax payments) from the Town of Linn to the City of Lake Geneva in exchange for zoning changes for the Geneva Inn.
The fact that Lake Geneva’s city attorney has recused himself from the issue, indicates that he knows the legal maneuvering that is going on, and he doesn’t want any part of it. Years ago, in a similar manner, this same man, Dan “Small Ball” Draper, legally recused himself, and deferred to an outside attorney when ex-mayor William Chesen illegally suspended and removed four elected aldermen from the Lake Geneva City Council. This smalltime city attorney may be called a lot of things, but stupid is not one of them. He is not telling the city council what he knows, and what he cares about, he’s not telling anyone, and that is a disturbing combination.
There are three outcomes that hiring an outside attorney can produce, none of which are good. The outside attorney can determine (in his opinion) that the pre-annexation agreement is legal, or decide it is not legal, or he can modify it to make it legal. In any case the Geneva Inn has made its annexation requirements known, so that even if there is no signed pre-annexation agreement, the city council members will have an “understanding” of the terms of annexation, and know what is expected of them if they annex the Geneva Inn properties, so to speak. The pre-annexation agreement, even though unsigned, would become the “memorandum of understanding” that the city council is expected to follow if they go ahead and annex the Geneva Inn. This is eerily similar to an unsigned “memorandum of understanding” that preceded the Geneva Ridge law suit settlement. Where, by not signing, the agreement outlined the understanding that if, and only if, the city council changed the Lake Geneva City’s Comprehensive Plan’s zoning for the Geneva Ridge property (the Hummel property), and the insurance company agreed to give millions to Geneva Ridge, then Geneva Ridge would drop its multimillion dollar law suit against the city and five aldermen. To quote Yogi Berra “It is like déjà vu all over again.”
Other than money, there is no benefit to the City of Lake Geneva to annex the Geneva Inn properties that could not be accomplished without annexing them. The annexation is all about money, and the four members of the city council who voted to approve it know that. They put money above their concerns for the lake, the city’s neighbors, and all concerned residents. It is a shame that two of the aldermen who voted for approval are not up for re-election, and even worse, that the other two who voted for approval are up for re-election this spring, but are running unopposed. So all of them will be on the city council for at least another year, and the other two for another two years. This is what happens when more residents do not care enough to run for office, and why those who do care get that déjà vu feeling.