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Pilsen Developer Demands City of Chicago Make Ald. Solis Testify Under Oath

A Pilsen developer claims city lawyers are stalling requests to depose Ald. Danny Solis, who’s been out of sight.

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Danny Solis

Chicago Ald. Danny Solis at City Hall on July 25, 2018.

Bill Healy

A real estate developer suing the city of Chicago is trying to force outgoing 25th Ward Ald. Danny Solis to testify in its case.

This week, lawyers for the developer, Property Markets Group, asked a Cook County Circuit Court judge to force the Emanuel administration to say when Solis, his chief of staff and another city official would sit for depositions.

The developer disputes a decision Solis made to change the zoning of a vacant parcel in Pilsen that they want to develop.

The problem is Solis is nowhere to be found after being outed as a government mole earlier this year.

Federal court records reveal Solis wore a wire and recorded dozens of conversations with City Hall’s most veteran alderman, Ed Burke, for more than two years.

Solis cooperated with investigators after federal surveillance of his cell phone and private meetings with city lobbyists revealed the alderman’s penchant for Viagra and massage parlors that offered sexual acts. Solis has not been charged of any wrongdoing.

‘Sometimes people need a little nudge’

PMG sued the city in November 2018. On Wednesday, their attorneys filed the motion to compel Solis and the others to testify. The next court hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.

At its root, PMG’s case against the city is about aldermanic privilege, an unwritten rule that gives aldermen the ability to control development in their ward, with the freedom to rezone any property as they see fit.

In court documents, PMG alleges Solis abused his authority as chairman of the City Council’s Zoning Committee when he rezoned a vacant lot from residential to manufacturing use. The change has prevented the developers from going through with their plan to build apartments on the lot.

In 2016, when Solis ushered the change through his zoning committee, he said the rezone was intended to send a message to the developers.

“Sometimes what the community needs and what the community wants isn’t exactly what a developer is proposing,” Solis said ahead of the rezoning vote at City Hall. “Sometimes people need a little nudge that they have got to give in a little bit.”

For months, the developer’s lawyers have requested the city make Solis and a supervisor at the city’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD), Noah Szafraniec, answer their questions under oath.

In March, the city’s outside counsel said it could not force Solis’ deposition because he’s “not a party to the lawsuit and not an employee of the City.”

Though Solis recently resigned his seat as zoning chairman, he’s still the alderman of the 25th Ward until the new city council is sworn in on May 20.

“We find it troubling that the city would go through such lengths to try and stop our deposition of Ald. Solis,” said one of the developer’s attorneys, Alex Spiro, a partner at the New York firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP.

A spokesman for the city’s law department says they do not comment on ongoing litigation.

Dan Mihalopoulos contributed to this story.

Claudia Morell covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @claudiamorell.

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