Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fedzhemier's

Fedzheimer's -- the terrible malady that saps the memories of politicians when the feds begin snooping around -- claimed another victim on Thursday:

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

I think he needs a nice Marco Island vacation -- Tommy D. style.

"I've never heard of that," the mayor said when asked by reporters about a front page Tribune exclusive that the FBI was investigating allegations that city inspectors were used to pressure property owners in Daley's 11th Ward to sell their land to politically connected developers.

Reporters: Are you aware of the investigation?

"No," Daley said.

It's not the first time he's been pixilated by Fedzheimer's. He usually recovers, until some underling gets indicted, then it flares up again. But this case seems especially severe.

The Daley family runs the 11th Ward. If inspectors were used to muscle local property for his friends, you could bet the inspectors pensions' the Daleys would know.

One of the developers reportedly involved is his loyal political supporter, and second favorite developer, Thomas DiPiazza. Tommy D., as he's known on Rush Street, is no chumbolone -- Bridgeport slang for idiot or fool.

No chumbolone could buy a polluted lot for $50,000 and sell it to Daley's administration a few years later for $1.2 million.

Tommy D. is a friend and business associate of Daley's top political brain, Tim Degnan. And, as I reported a few weeks ago, Tommy D. was also in business with a top convicted Outfit bookie from the 11th Ward, Raymond John Tominello, known as Rayjo.

Tommy D. is also close to Fred Bruno Barbara, the renowned trucking boss and mayoral fashionista. They own the pricey real estate under the famous Tavern on Rush, in the city's Viagra Triangle. But the mayor wasn't asked about Tavern on Rush. He was asked about Thursday's Tribune story by reporters Laurie Cohen and Todd Lighty.

"I've never heard of that at all," said the mayor.

Fedzheimer's is heartbreaking. If the FBI keeps asking questions about DiPiazza, Degnan, and the alleged use of city inspectors to threaten property owners on deals backed by Tommy D. and Degnan, the Fedzheimer's might increase.

Daley might forget he's the mayor. And Tim Degnan might forget how to count.

So, as an amateur psychiatrist, I'd like to write a prescription. Let the FBI do its work, establishing what could someday turn into a racketeering case against somebody, and I'll prescribe a remedy for Daley and Degnan.

Degnan should go on a golf vacation, say to Ireland, and take the mayor's brother Michael and the mayor's former law partner and zoning lawyer Jack George along, to relax while smashing a little white ball.

I'll send the mayor to take the Tommy D. cure, in Florida, at Tommy D.'s gorgeous penthouses on Marco Island.

According to Florida real estate records, DiPiazza spent $5 million to purchase Penthouse 201 at the lush Madeira on Marco Island development on Sept. 18, 2006. That same day, Fred Bruno Barbara purchased Penthouse 202 at Madeira, for $5.5 million. Barbara didn't take any loans to buy the property, at least none leveraged against the penthouse. The penthouses were estimated between 7,000 and 9,000 square feet.

Also on Sept. 18, 2006, another DiPiazza/Barbara buddy and 11th Warder, city worker Charles Scalfaro, purchased Unit 1504 at Madeira, for $1.9 million. Scalfaro makes around $60,000 a year overseeing paving for the city's Department of Transportation. Collier County real estate records show that no loans were taken out to purchase Scalfaro's condo. Living on about $60,000 a year, no loan, Scalfaro must be a good saver.

One month later, the records show that Barbara and Scalfaro sold their Marco properties to a Tommy D. company. The records don't show how much was paid. A few days later, Tommy D. leveraged them, and another home he owned, for a $6.6 million loan from Cole Taylor Bank, records show.

It sure seems to be prudent investing. But, if the FBI wants to poke around in Florida, hey, it's a free country. I hope they take some sunscreen.

Marco Island is a nice place. My parents bought a retirement home there years ago, back when I covered City Hall and the mayor liked me. In those days, he was under stress, too, telling us how he was reforming the city, and I became worried for him. So I offered him the use of my folks' place, with a boat and pool, so he could rest.

Take the boat out, fish, catch some snook, drink beer, relax, I said. I wasn't taking. I was giving, to a reformer. He thought about it for a few days then politely declined. A few years later, my dad died and it was sold.

Today, any amateur shrink can see the Fedzheimer's gripping the mayor. He can't remember. He doesn't know.

Some quality time with Tommy D., and Freddie B., on Marco Island, reflecting on life's many mysteries might be just the thing.

Thanks to John Kass

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