Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Hearing

The wheels of justice grind slowly.

Today was the informal fact finding hearing between me, my developer and the City of Chicago’s Department of Consumer Services. All of the above parties plus my developer’s lawyer and an aide from my alderman’s office were in attendance.

The hearing lasted a little over an hour and I kept my talking points were the following subjects:

The poor condition and replacement of the porches.
The poor condition of the electrical system.
The fact that we as a condo association got stuck with a fine that was the result of our developer’s mismanagement.

I was direct, had supporting documentation and kept on message. The facts spoke for themselves. So much so that if I continued on, I would have been repeating myself which would have made me look disorganized.

My developer responded by confirming what he did and did not do with respect to the rehabilitation of the buildings. During his explanation, the hearing officer interrupted to establish several facts:

My developer did not and does not have developer’s license.
Very little, if any, demolition was done on the building.
My developer did not replace or pull any of the existing electrical wiring.
My developer did not replace any of the existing plumbing.
What my developer called a property report was actually a small portion of what constitutes a true property report.
A property report of any kind was never filed with the city.

My basic argument was the filing of the property report was key to triggering inspections. Many of the latent problems that we as an association are encountering today could have been corrected.

My developer countered with a whole bunch of talk about who was called at the city to come out and inspect the property for a certificate of occupancy and that it had been completed.

Unfortunately for him, he didn’t come with any documentation that could prove his claims. Perhaps he’ll unearth his paperwork and present it to the hearing officer at a later date.

She did seem miffed that documentation she had requested a few weeks ago from my developer had not been produced in enough time for the hearing. He offered the excuse that one of his business partners took care of those issues and that the paperwork was never given to him.

He also mentioned the same tired excuses that he did in the letter that he sent to the Attorney General’s Office----the building was the worst building on the block; he kept the prices low so that the units could be affordable; in some cases he spent his own money to address punch list items; he offered to buy our places back from us but none of us accepted; the reason why none of use accepted is that our property value is estimated to be somewhere in the low $200’s and the fact that we got stuck with a fine that was originally his was due to a dishonest employee.

Nothing was ever his fault. There was an excuse for every issue.

Once he was finished, I countered that due to the four foreclosures in our building that the true value of our homes has yet to be firmly and consistently established, Furthermore I had neighbors attempt to sell their two bedroom at the $160 price point and had no luck as the electrical system was a major deterrent to potential home buyers.

Additionally, I told the hearing officer how we’ve turned our fortunes around as an association by establishing standard bookkeeping practices as well as saving money by doing our own maintenance.

My developer jumped in by stating that because he wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest that he largely told the board that we could do whatever we wanted to do in our governing. That he would stay out of the way.

The hearing office seems puzzled by this and asked him why he remained condo board president for two years if he was to “stay out of the way?”

He replied, “Because the original officers were re-elected.”

Who can argue with that logic?

Our hearing officer is a seemingly nice lady---but a seemingly nice lady with a massive poker face. There was really no reading her. I have no idea how she will “take this under advisement.”

I’m concerned that the building’s issues will be given the brush off once again---only time will tell.

My fingers are crossed.

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