By Todd Feurer
CHICAGO (CBS) — Former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s word wasn’t good enough for a Cook County judge to excuse him from testifying in open court in connection to the Emanuel administration’s effort to break a long-term deal with the operators of the restaurant at Millennium Park.
At a hearing on Tuesday, Cook County Judge Moshe Jacobius said Daley will have to provide more information showing he’s too ill to testify. His lawyers have said he’s not well enough after the stroke-like episode he suffered in January.
Daley, 72, has sought to quash a subpoena compelling him to testify in a case filed by the Emanuel administration, claiming the deal to run the Park Grill restaurant has been a raw deal for city taxpayers.
The former mayor’s lawyers filed a motion last week claiming his testimony would be a hardship, and that he doesn’t have any pertinent information for the case, because he doesn’t remember specifics of the negotiations for the Park Grill deal he signed in 2003.
During depositions in the case, Daley repeatedly said he did not remember how the Park Grill operators were selected to run the establishment. He also testified he didn’t know if there was anything improper about how Park Grill got the contract.
Jacobius said Daley’s testimony in depositions does not excuse him from testifying at trial, noting a trial offers the opportunity for cross-examination, unlike a deposition. As for Daley’s claim of medical hardship, the judge said he needs proof of Daley’s poor health, and gave his attorneys until Monday to submit a doctor’s excuse.
The judge will hear arguments on Daley’s motion later this month. He also said Daley’s attorneys should explain why an affidavit detailing his medical condition should be filed under seal, rather than presented in open court.
Convincing the judge Daley is too ill to testify might be an uphill climb. Park Grill attorney Stephen Novak read the judge recent newspaper articles quoting Daley’s own brother saying the former mayor was doing fine, and has traveled to Texas in recent weeks.
“I don’t think, in my 40-some years, I’ve ever had a situation where a witness was excused for health reasons from testifying at a trial,” Novak told reporters later.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office filed a lawsuit against the Park Grill owners in 2011, claiming the contract with the city is invalid because the City of Chicago owns most of Millennium Park, and the Chicago Park District did not get City Council authorization for the 20-year lease with the Park Grill.
The Emanuel administration has argued the deal cheats taxpayers out of millions of dollars in revenue, and was illegal because the Park District did not seek City Council permission to allow the restaurant to operate on city-owned land.
Novak said Daley would have to back their case that the deal is proper if he’s called to the stand.
“The city knew about this concession agreement, knew that it had been awarded, participated every step of the way, and approved it. The mayor’s testimony, we believe, will support that,” Novak said.
The restaurant’s investors include several businessmen with political ties to Daley.
–CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall contributed to this report.