JOLIET – The city’s legal costs on the Evergreen Terrace case since 2005 total $6 million.
The total costs to date were provided by the city’s Finance Department as the Joliet City Council prepares in the coming weeks to decide whether to pursue the acquisition of the low-income apartment complex.
Joliet does run the risk of Evergreen Terrace owners seeking compensation for its legal costs, which are at least $6.4 million, if it drops the condemnation effort after the legal battle that has gone on since 2005.
Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said he did not believe Evergreen Terrace owners would pursue the city for their legal tab.
“If we decide not to buy it, I think we just walk away,” O’Dekirk said.
Evergreen Terrace owners are being sued for unpaid legal bills by the firm that represented them in the case before pulling out in early 2014. Ungaretti & Harris filed a lawsuit a year ago seeking $6.4 million from Ronald Gidwitz, a onetime Republican candidate for governor, and his family, the primary owners of Evergreen Terrace.
City legal costs began to spike in 2012, when preparations were made for the condemnation trial that went on for two years before a federal judge ruled in Joliet’s favor.
The city spent about $790,000 on legal bills until 2012, according to numbers provided by the finance department. In 2012, the city spent $2.5 million. The trial, handled by the law firm of Figliulo & Silverman, began in October of that year.
City Manager Jim Hock said most of the $2.5 million is attributable to “a mixture of depositions and preparations for the actual trial.”
The city spent another $2 million in 2013 and $402,000 in 2014. The trial ended in May 2014, and the judge’s ruling for Joliet came in September.
A second trial determining the price of Evergreen Terrace took place in March. But it lasted only a week before a jury ruled Joliet should pay $15 million for Evergreen Terrace.
The city’s legal costs so far this year are $308,000.
The Joliet City Council plans to hold a special meeting in early July to hear a presentation from consultants on the future costs of managing and redeveloping Evergreen Terrace before making a decision on acquiring the property.