|Langdon Neal (Sun-Times Photo)
Langdon Neal serves as counsel for McPier Authority as well as a member of the same Chicago Board of Elections which permitted Rahm Emanuel to run for Chicago mayor despite the fact he had given up his residence in Chicago and was living in Washington, D.C. with his wife and kids while he was serving as President Barack Obama's White House Chief of Staff. Neal's law firm was paid about $4.5 million to help McPier acquire a two block swath of property for the new basketball arena and hotel at a cost to the convention authority of nearly $62 million. Area residents were concerned the towering hotel and basketball arena project was going to impact the nearby residential area negatively. As an accommodation, McPier agreed to build a pocket park. That's where things got really interesting.
In 2013, Neal represented an Australian real estate developer, Drapac Group, in acquiring a nearby foreclosed property from Harris Bank for $1,020,000. Just by coincidence, this 21,857-square-foot property was identified by McPier as the parcel needed to build the pocket park. McPier acquired the parcel from Neal's client, Drapac, just 14 months after it purchased the property from Harris Bank for a whopping 400% profit at $5,473,750 without bothering to obtain an appraisal to determine the property's worth. A spokesman for McPier claims Neal, who was also registered to lobby on behalf of Drapac, informed the convention authority of his past representation of Drapac. McPier's spokesman says Neal obtained a waiver to be involved in the real estate transaction that netted his former client a 400% return on their investment.
The Sun-Times Watchdogs requested a copy of Neal's letter disclosing his relationship with Drapac and the waiver letter he received, but McPier said both documents were protected by the attorney-client privilege. Neal's law firm, incidentally, is paid to give McPier advice on public records requests. McPier officials also said they couldn't say how much Neal had billed the authority for the Drapac transaction. Neal refused to discuss the matter with Sun-Times reporters. According to the Sun-Times, McPier has spent $62 million to date on the project, including $25.9 million Mayor Emanuel gave McPier from the City's TIF fund to pay for the project. McPier operates with as little transparency as our Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board, but at least reporters in Chicago make an effort to expose their shady dealings, unlike the Indianapolis news media, which sits on the sidelines cheering every move the cash-rich convention industry makes at the expense of other more pressing public spending priorities.