Remember that story about how Rep. Monique Davis of Chicago had gone seven years without paying rent on a Chicago Public Schools building she was using for her district office?
Well, Davis’ obstinacy has now reached a preposterous 11 rent-free years and counting with no resolution in sight as the veteran South Side Democrat continues to fight her eviction.
CPS Inspector General James Sullivan reminded us Friday about this unfinished business as part of his annual report to the public.
Sullivan, whose office first disclosed Davis’ freeloading in 2009, summed up the situation nicely in his update.
“In essence, [last year], nothing happened to resolve the disputes, and taxpayers continue to pay for never-ending litigation,” he wrote.
This has gotten beyond ridiculous. Enough already.
It’s time for somebody to show some common sense and resolve the situation, which pretty much rules out Davis.
Maybe House Speaker Michael Madigan and Mayor Rahm Emanuel could add it to the agenda for their next phone call. Fixing this is well within their power.
Davis’ unpaid rent has now surpassed $158,000. There are alternate ways to calculate the arrearages that drive the total owed above $600,000, but I’d say $158,000 is closer to what’s fair.
Keep in mind this isn’t money Davis owes personally. It’s money the state owes the Chicago Board of Education, which helps explains why she isn’t in any hurry to settle the matter.
But that money certainly would have been enough to pay for a couple of laid off CPS teachers.
This doesn’t seem to register with Davis, who first started renting space in the CPS building at 1234 W. 95th Street in 1988 and insists she should be allowed to stay — even though school officials have been trying to get rid of her since her lease expired in 2002.
Davis argues her constituents know the location well after so many years, and that she has few alternatives in the neighborhood.
“We have to have an office some place,” she told me.
Davis blames the unpaid rent on CPS’ failure to renew her lease, ignoring the fact the school system wants her out and is trying to sell the building — which may prove impossible with her there. I don’t rule out the possibility that different regimes at CPS played games by overlooking her freeloading status.
It wasn’t until Sullivan’s office made the situation public that CPS finally took Davis to court in 2009.
A lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court was dismissed on grounds the case properly belonged in the Illinois Court of Claims, where monetary claims against the state are heard.
Now that the case has been moved to the Court of Claims, Davis’ lawyers from the Illinois Attorney General’s office are arguing it should be dismissed there as well because that’s an improper venue for an eviction and because CPS waited too long to seek the back rent.
In the notoriously slow Court of Claims, a decision could be years away, when what’s obviously needed is for somebody to forge an immediate settlement.
Davis receives an annual allowance from the state of $69,409 to pay for her district office activities, which would include renting office space.
I’m curious as to how she spends the money that would normally go toward rent, but could not obtain the records on short notice Friday.
Davis told me she uses her allowance to pay her secretary and to publish a newsletter to constituents, as well as for utilities and repairs to the building. In its court filings, CPS claimed she stuck the agency with $15,000 in repairs to the heating and air conditioning systems.
In a separate lawsuit, Cook County is pursuing Davis for $467,000 in leasehold real estate taxes it claims are owed on the property. This makes no sense to me: forcing state taxpayers to pay taxes to the county for renting a government building for a public purpose. The Legislature properly tried to clear this up a couple years ago with special legislation to take Davis off the hook, and any negotiations between the powers should make that suit disappear as well.
Back in 2008, a CPS lawyer sent Davis a letter offering to settle the whole business for $75,000.
That’s where it should have ended — with her paying up and moving out. We shouldn’t leave this decision in her hands.