The Machinery Row TimeLine
July 2, 2012, “RootsWorks” a Root River Corridor Redevelopment Plan Adopted by the City of Racine.
January 14,2014, Rodney Blackwell meets representatives from Racine and Vanderwalle Design to inspect properties along Root River in Downtown Racine for a future development call “Machinery Row”.
April 8, 2014, Blackwell/FDP makes three $5,000-dollar option payments to each of the thee sellers Jensen, Olsen and Azarian for a 3-month period to inspect property before purchase. A total of $15,000.
June 10, 2014, the Machinery Row a $65 Million Dollar redevelopment project was announced. The 20-acre site in the heart of the City of Racine will be transformed into higher-end, market-rate apartments, as well as stores, restaurants and other commercial space, under the plan from Financial District Properties, a development firm based in Davenport, Iowa. https://journaltimes.com/news/local/developer-unveils-million-plan-for-machinery-row/article_9cc4f08e-f0cb-11e3-8771-0019bb2963f4.html
June 24, 2014, The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. approved a $9 million tax credit for Machinery Row. Gov. Scott Walker’s office assured them that if the project passed an appropriate review that it would be approved.
July 8, 2014, Blackwell/FDP extends the April 8th option which was to expire on July 9, 2014 another 3 months to October 9, 2014 and pays the three-property owner another$5,000 each. A total of $30,000 has been paid in option monies to secure the Machinery Row development.
September 2014, the Racine City Council voted 13-0 to grant the administration’s request, approving the creation of Tax Increment Finance District 18 for Machinery Row.
September 25, 2014, James Bowman (of FDP) sent an email to Rick Olsen (owner of some of the property to be included in the project) that the options to purchase, which were due to expire on Oct. 9th, would not be renewed. The project was dead.
November 21, 2014, six weeks after the options had expired, the options to purchase were mysteriously renewed, but with some unique clauses inserted into the language. No
additional money was required of FDP to renew the options, and, “In the event the property fails to close, all option payments made ($30,000) will be returned to FDP.”
December 10, 2014, Racine Journal Times article stating Development project manager Jim Bowman requesting to borrow $4.5 million from the City and FDP would give the city a note for the loan and put at least $200,000 into a restricted escrow account to cover the city’s 1 percent interest payments on the IGA loan for up to 24 months.
December 12, 2014, The Racine Redevelopment Authority approved a loan of $4.5 million dollars to Financial District Properties/Blackwell, (FDP) for the purchase of multiple lots and building from three sellers, Azarian, Olson and Jensen, and approved the purchasing of 526 Marquette St and 615 Marquette St for $1.8 million dollars making a total withdrawal of $6.3 million dollars from the RDA intergovernmental fund. https://journaltimes.com/news/local/m-loan-for-machinery-row-moves-on-to-city-council/article_7dc3a22b-e088-597b-aa37-1f7308261d35.html
FDP will use the money to buy the properties of three separate owners and gain full site control. FDP needs site control to meet a Dec. 31, 2104 deadline and finish its business with the state of Wisconsin to obtain $9 million in historic tax credits that are a crucial part of the complex financing package.
The council’s vote also cleared the city to borrow $1.8 million in intergovernmental revenue-sharing funds to buy two other buildings in the Machinery Row corridor: a warehouse at 526 Marquette St. and the former Case Plow Works at 615 Marquette St.
December 17, 2014, Racine Journal Times article again statesDevelopment project manager Jim Bowman said FDP would give the city a note for the loan and put at least $200,000 into a restricted escrow account to cover the city’s 1 percent interest payments on the IGA loan for up to 24 months.
Alderman Weidner asks City Attorney Rob Weber and CC’s City Administrator Tom Friedel asking “Why did we hire outside counsel? Why are we borrowing $454,000 more then assessed value? and what is the purchases price of the properties we are loaning $4.5 Million dollars on?
December 17, 2014, Wisconsin State Representative Cory Mason speaks in favor of loaning $4.5 M to FDP at an official common council meetingknowing FDP/Blackwell is a strawman.
December 2014, Prior to closing on the “Properties” the City negotiated a Deed In lieu of foreclosure agreement with FDP, allowing the CITY to reclaim the “Properties” when and if FDP defaulted on the LOAN. The City Loan was not secured by any personal guarantees, bonds or other security other than a pledge of the interest in the real estate.
December 28, 2014 The City of Racine was negotiating the purchase price for Olsen’s property with Olsen’s attorney Wyatt not FDP/Blackwell. “When I met w/ the city we agreed that the total price would be reduced from $4.5 to $3.3 which is client’s bottom line.”
December 28, 2014 Elaine Ekes an attorney hired by the city to oversee the development agreement and see that the taxpayer monies were applied to the purchase of the properties at Machinery Row the way the common council voted to have it applied. An email exchange from Richard Donner of Reinhart & Boerner Representing Blackwell was asking Jud Wyatt (Representing Property Owner Olsen) “Is Elaine and the city comfortable lower the purchase price to $1.35M from $1.5M to fund the reserve?”
December 31, 2014, Olsen sells his property 900 Water Street for $1.5 million to FDP. Azarian sells his property to FDP for $1,093,826.
December 31, 2014, A mortgage and development agreement in the amount of $4.5 million dollars is recorded in the Resister of Deeds in Racine County Wisconsin, naming City of Racine and FDP. # 2397475, # 2397477, #2398375
December 31, 2014 A $250,000 kickback was collected by the developer from the sellers Olsen and Azarian. The public was told a restrictive escrow account was also set up by the developer FDP to make 1% interest payments on the 4.5 million city loan over 2 years.
December 31, 2014, Blackwell draws $30,000 (options refund money) from the reserve while Bowman draws an $31,862 real estate commission. Bowman Draws monies between 1-5-15 thru 9-28-15 withdrawing a total of 88,711.00
January 14, 2014, Jensen sells her property to FDP for $1.9 million dollars. Additional monies were added to the reserve account, making the fund $450,000. Jensen has attorney and receives $850.000 over accessed value. Will not discuss closing or relocation agreement.
January 2014, a development agreement drafted by Attorney Elaine Sutton Ekes which was signed and recorded states:
# 2397475, # 2397477, #2398375
b. LOAN. The City will loan Developer funds for the acquisition of the property in the amount of the purchase price of the property not to exceed $4.5Million, which will be used by Developer only for the acquisition of the property and to fund the Escrow Account. “City Loan.”
d. At the Real Estate Closing 10% of the aggregate funds to be disbursed on a proportional basis as the separation as occur, to the sellers (approximately $450,000) shall be deposited into escrow the “Escrow Funds” with in escrow agent mutually agreed upon by the City and Developer (the “Escrow Agent”). The terms of the escrow agreement related to the Escrow Account shall allow for (i) the City to unilaterally draw up to $100,000 of the escrow funds from the Escrow Account for quarterly interest payments due on the Note as described above, as such interest payments become due: and (ii) Developer to unilaterally draw up to $350,000 for the reimbursement of development costs incurred by Developer prior to and after the Real Estate Closing adherence of the Machinery Row Redevelopment Project.
Total of properties purchased by FDP (Olson, Azarian, Jensen) $4,053,000 not the $4,493,826.00 that was told to the Racine taxpayer, common council and redevelopment committee.
Early 2016, The $450,000 reserve fund is down to $22,000 when city officials realize the real estate taxes have gone unpaid and liens and judgments were being attached to the real estate. They apply for a $470.000 DNR Knowles Nelson grant from the State of Wisconsin.
August 11, 2016, Alderman Sandy Weidner askes in email to Racine Administrator Tom Friedel if the interest payments on the $4.5M loan is being made. He states “FDP has been making quarterly interest payments to the city from an escrowed account held at Landmark Title. “We request a payment at the end of each quarter and payments have been receipted. Dave Brown and I have been closely following this process to make sure that those transfers occur. There have been no missed payments”.
September 6, 2016, City Council approves accepting a $470,00 DNR grant, ostensibly to build a “promenade” adjacent to the riverfront within the Machinery Row project. It was to be a “matching grant” requiring the participation of both FDP and the City of Racine. The City of Racine purchases 5 acres of the Machinery Row development from strawman FDP/Blackwell for $940,000 with no monies going to FDP/Blackwell but the $470,000 matching DNR grant monies put into the “Cities” control to cover property taxes and contractor liens.
September 6, 2016, Alderwoman Sandy Weidnerask in an official Racine Common Council meeting that she just discovered that a 10% kickback (10% of the sale price of the property that was purchased in December 2014 with the taxpayers $4.5M city loan to strawman FDP/Blackwell) was given by the sellers to form the restrictive escrow account the FDP/Blackwell spoke of in the Racine Journal Times article dated December 10, 2014. She also stated that the City of Racine was making the interest payments on the City loan. https://youtu.be/4OCdbqSGaa0
September 2016, The City amends the Development agreement to set up another restrictive escrow with the DNR monies to pay the construction liens and real estate taxes due on the Machinery Row properties.
October 28, 2016, Racine city administrator Tom Friedel announces his resignation, abruptly ending his contract with the City of Racine.
December 2016, The City of Racine declares FDP/Blackwell in default of the $4.5 million-dollar taxpayer funded loan. However, Blackwell had already signed over the deeds to the properties in December 2014 before even purchasing the properties. https://journaltimes.com/business/local/machinery-row-developer-defaults-on-loan/article_346f8691-300f-5bb1-ab4d-c1007ca5c7d2.html
February 9, 2017, At a special meeting of the City Council City Development Director Amy Connolly introduced Gorman & Company. Gorman is seeking to eventually take over FDP MR LLC. from Rodney Blackwell, the would-be developer of Machinery Row, and take on the redevelopment project. City Council voted unanimously to authorize city administration to transfer ownership of FDP MR LLC from Blackwell to the RDA. If Gorman decides to take on the development. https://journaltimes.com/news/local/city-finds-new-machinery-row-developer/article_09f1d0d7-54e0-530c-863a-faa7d5ed2f40.html
February 11,2017, Governor Scott Walker announces that he will slash Wisconsin Historic Tax credit program in his budget. https://wpt4.org/wpt-video/here-and-now/historic-rehabilitation-tax-credit-matthew-jarosz/
March 27, 2017, State Representative Weatherston makes a call for 9 million in historic tax credits to be returned to the State of Wisconsin.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they lost all those credits,” he said. “In my personal opinion, the project is collapsed. I haven’t heard a really good plan from (Dickert) or anyone else on how to revive that plan. “Weatherston. “We’re seeing opposition from the Republican Party to extending the credits, Dickert said.
March 27, 2017, Racine Mayor John Dickert announces he is stepping down as Mayor of Racine and taking a job with the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative group.
March 27, 2017, At the same press conference where Mayor Dickert resigns Wisconsin assemblyman Cory Mason announces his bid for John Dickert’s position. https://www.wpr.org/racine-mayor-announces-plan-step-down
March 29, 2017, Racine Taxpayers Association headed by Sam Wahlen calls for Dickert to ‘step aside immediately. Sam Wahlen is son of former Racine Police chief Kurt Wahlen. Kurt Wahlen is influential in the Racine County Republican Party and son Sam was president of the Young Republicans of Racine County. Both well connected to the Walker administration.https://journaltimes.com/news/local/racine-taxpayers-association-calls-for-dickert-to-step-aside-immediately/article_c66841ac-4966-576a-94e1-f610bf0534ad.html
April 14,2017, A criminal complaint is filed with the Racine County Sheriff (17-00217) by local citizen Dennis Montey naming Mayor John Dickert, City Administrator Tom Friedel and City Attorney Scott Letteney. The complaint stated fraud, misappropriation of funds andmisconduct by public officials.
June 9, 2017, The Wisconsin Department of Administration sent a clear, written directive to the City of Racine to engage in negotiations with tenants of the Machinery Row development to compensate them for damages. The letter included an offer of assistance from the DOA and advised that the displaced persons had the right to pursue legal action if a satisfactory agreement could not be reached. https://issuu.com/communicatornews/docs/doa_determination__6-9-17__3___1_
July 28, 2017, Alderman Sandy Weidner announces her candidacy for Mayor of the City of Racine to be held in a special election October 17, 2017.
August 20, 2017, The Racine City attorney Scott Letteney calls an executive committee meeting asking the common council members to ask the ethics board for an advisory opinion on the release of emails to the public by Weidner pertaining to city business.
September, October 2017, Weidner calls for investigation into Machinery Row development also calls for audit of city finances. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Y3-7nMjBSY
October 17, 2017, Assembly Cory Mason wins mayoral special election to become Mayor of the City of Racine.
November 29, 2017, Alderman Sandy files a mandamus suit (17 cv-1644) ask for open records for copies of emails the city attorney Letteney used in the executive committee on August 20, 2017 to refer to ethics committee. Mandamus (a judicial writ issued as a command to an inferior court or ordering a person to perform a public or statutory duty).
December 20, 2017, City of Racine (Letteney) retains law firm to represent city (Letteney) in Alderman Weidner’s mandamus suit.
December 27, 2017, A lawsuit filed in Federal Court Eastern District Court seeking displacement costs for Azarian wrecking/ Marina and Olsen Companies. # 17-cv-01802 Start at Item 70
February 5, 2018, Initial hearing Weidner vs City of Racine Judge Gasiorkiewicz takes the uncommon step to seal the court proceedings and all public records and documents from the public.
May 8, 2018, Judge Gasiorkiewicz renders judgement in Weidner vs City of Racine in favor of City of Racine and dismisses the case in its entirety with prejudice. Seals all public records.
June 5, 2018, Patrick Fagan refiles as a displaced personlawsuit in Racine Civil Courtseeking damages from the displacement of his business. #18-cv-001227
June 28, 2018, Weidner files an appeal with the State of Wisconsin Appeals Court in case 17-cv-1644. Claiming Wisconsin public records are open for review and objects to the sealing of any public records.
February – December 2018, Newspapers and watch dog groups voice there concerns on sealing public records. Multiple articles were written in objection to sealing of public records.
September 19, 2018, Weidner speaks about case to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Weidner contends the sealing and suppression of information to public officials is at the heart of City of Racine sealing information and emails. Weidner reveals some information to reporter on emails contents.
September 24, 2018, City of Racine (Letteney) files contempt of court charges on Weidner for revealing some information in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article 9-19-2018. https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2018/09/24/secret-open-records-case-racine-seeks-sanctions-against-alderwoman/1410143002/
October 3, 2018, Judge Gasiorkiewicz finds Weidner in contempt of court. Orders Weidner to pay cities legal fees for contempt hearing (approx. $17,000) and to remain silent on the sealed court case. https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/local/wisconsin/2018/10/03/racine-official-found-contempt-discussing-secret-case/1510984002/
October 30, 2018, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA Today Network -Wisconsin, The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, The Wisconsin Newspaper Association, and The Wisconsin
Broadcasters Association (News Media) Joins Alderman Weidner in an appeal to INTERVENE in the case Weidner vs City of Racine. https://journaltimes.com/news/local/media-organizations-file-motion-in-weidner-sealed-records-case/article_a8ac7da5-a83c-5210-bd73-1d6476db155c.html
October 31, 2018, Assistant City of Racine Nicole Larson explains how the Machinery Row developer FDP/Blackwell signed a deed in lieu of foreclosure before purchasing the private properties with a City of Racine loan in December 2014. Then again in August 2018 new deeds in lieu of foreclosure was signed by FDP/Blackwell when the city bought the 5 acres from strawman Blackwell to obtain fraudulent DNR grants. FDP was set up as a strawman by the City of Racine to obtain fraudulent DNR grants, avoid relocation expenses to sellers and tenants and misappropriated taxpayers’ dollars.
December 5, 2018, News Media wins right to challenge open records case Weidner vs City of Racine in appeals court. https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/local/wisconsin/2018/12/07/wisconsin-news-media-groups-win-right-challenge-sealed-court-case/2240440002/
December 10, 2018, Wisconsin Appeals Court sends message to Judge Gasiorkiewicz “Notice to Reconsideration” before appeals court renders their decision.
December 24,2018, Richard Olsen former owner of property sold to city strawman FDP/Blackwell – sends a letter to the FBI asking for an investigation on the defunct Machinery Row Development.
January 8, 2019, Judge Gasiorekiewicz orders release of court documents and 5 of 18 sealed emails to the public. https://www.wnanews.com/2019/01/10/racine-records-unsealed/
January 10, 2019, Unsealed email and documents reveal talk show Talking Racine and James Spodick and George Meyers are considered “Dangerous to City Hall” 12 of 18 emails were sent to either George Meyers or James Spodick.
March 5, 2019, Racine Country citizen Harry Wait addresses the Racine City Council and questions the pattern of secret meetings, secret courts and files ethic complaint on city attorney Scott Letteney. https://issuu.com/communicatornews/docs/common_council_complaint_-_scott_le
March 18, 2019, A letter sign by City of Racine’s management team objecting to commentators speaking about the city’s activities. Naming Harry Wait as one.
May 15, 2019, Department of Revenue Secretary Peter Barca announced that John Dickert has been appointed to serve as State and Local Finance Division Administrator, effective May 20, 2019. https://journaltimes.com/news/local/dickert-tapped-to-serve-with-the-state-department-of-revenue/article_295bbfe2-d4ba-5b65-822e-1f4eb5e638d3.html
June 4, 2019, The Racine Common Council changes the process of how it’s citizens can access communications to city hall relying solely on the management and selected alderman.
THE VOICE on Machinery Row https://issuu.com/communicatornews/docs/voice_2018-03_online
I was a victim of conspiracy, collusion, and inside secret dealing just like my fellow Wisconsin Taxpayers. Richard OLSEN Owner of 900 Water St.