Friday, March 16, 2007

Where are the accountability and honesty in city hall

I waited until the remaining candidates for city council and mayoral candidate Frank Tower were interviewed before posting this. Now that they have, I cannot tell you how disappointed, frustrated and angry I am to see that the accountability and honesty problems at City Hall are continuing.

One day after approving an additional $2.7 million in public financing for Community Retirement Living (CRL) to renovate/reconstruct the old Mercy Medical Center property on Hazel Street, we learned that the managing member of that firm – Dan Anbar – and his father had an agreement several years ago with the current owner of the property and developer, Ben Ganther, to redevelop the property.

The specifics were outlined in this piece by the Oshkosh Northwestern but in a nutshell, there was a business relationship between the two parties in 2002, that was soon after severed and Ganther was essentially left on his own to do something with the property. He failed to do so, has consistently been in arrears on his property tax obligations on the property, and CRL is now stepping into the picture to get something done with the property.

The news of the past relationship between the CRL partner and Ganther came as a surprise to city council members, as well as city manager Richard Wollangk, according to the paper. Several council members have expressed displeasure and frustration since learning of the prior relationship. Bryan Bain has posted this and this about the situation. And councilor/mayoral candidate Paul Esslinger has said he intends to bring the matter back for reconsideration at a future meeting.

Meanwhile, community development director Jackson Kinney says he didn’t bother telling anyone about the prior relationship between the two because (a) it was a matter of public record, (b) he didn’t see it as a factor in the new proposal, and (c) he’s looking forward rather than backward.

While it may be true that the prior relationship was public knowledge, perhaps the reason it wasn’t recalled by anyone on the council – in particular Esslinger, Shirley Mattox or Bill Castle, all who were on the council in 2002 – or by Mr. Wollangk, is because the 2002 deal was between Ganther and Arcom, a development company that partners with CRL, yet from what we can glean from the news, appears to have some of the same key personnel. Frank Tower was also on the council at the time of the 2002 arrangement, and when interviewed by Eye on Oshkosh last night, said he did not recall the relationship between Ganther and the CRL people either. Again, perhaps that’s because the names were different. Or maybe it’s because councilors vote on hundreds of issues a year and this was five years ago already. One can’t possibly remember every detail of every vote they make.

Whatever the reason, Jackson Kinney had a responsibility to bring the relationship to the attention of Mr. Wollangk, the city council and, ultimately, the public at large – big deal, in his mind, or not. His failure to do so is another reason why the confidence level of the public toward our local government is what I would venture to say is at one of the lowest points in our city’s history. This kind of thing happens far too often in City Hall and it is time the council demand that Wollangk get a better handle on his department heads and formally discipline them for these kinds of actions.

It is also disappointing that neither CRL’s point person at the council meeting Tuesday night nor Ganther himself thought the relationship was important information for anyone to have, especially since Ganther will still have a relationship with CRL to design/construct the new project. Had the council had that information, it may not have changed the vote on the new proposal, nor do I know that it should have. But it certainly would have changed the direction of some of the questions.

Bottom line: We need to stop doing business with people like Ben Ganther who do not pay their taxes. Further, this matter is ripe for reconsideration and kudos to Paul Esslinger and Bryan Bain for taking steps to see that it is handled properly and that such mistakes are not repeated in the future. Finally, it is time for the city council to demand that city manager Wollangk run a tighter ship where his department heads are concerned. Until he does, we will continue to have these problems, developers will continue to walk all over us and the city will continue to have egg on its face and trust issues with the public footing the bills.


Blogger Cheryl Hentz said...

[Editor's note: We have received two comments on the other Eye on Oshkosh site that are certainly pertinent to this discussion, so I am publishing them here, as well. I would also like to state that I have read the public relations response from CRL's Jan Rupnick and am disappointed that she feels compelled to defend Jackson Kinney's behavior in this situation. As someone who works for CRL I can understand her doing damage control for them, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth that she is doing damage control for Mr. Kinney (or anyone else for that matter). That said, following are the comments posted on my other site...]

- Cheryl
Comment #1

Authored by: alibi2day on Friday, March 16 2007 @ 06:22 AM MDT

Mr. Kinney did the city a great disservice by not putting ALL pertinent information on the table.

City Staff are supposed to provide the City Council with ALL the information it needs to make good decisions.
Providing the council with accurate and ALL relevant information IS in the job descriptions of City Staff.

I think it is time for Kinney to step aside and let the city hire someone new to take on this
very important position within city government.
He has lost all credibility and added fuel to the trust issues in City Hall.

Clearly our council will doubt any information from Mr. Kinney in the future.
The City of Oshkosh has TOO much to lose by keeping him on staff.

Start restoring trust Mr. Jackson Kinney submit your resignation.
Comment #2
Authored by: anonymous1 on Saturday, March 17 2007 @ 07:58 AM MDT
From Horselover:

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 2:05 pm Post subject: new information

I thought the connection between CRL and Ganther smelled a little fishy, so I did a little digging via Google and found several interesting facts about CRL, Arcom and Ganther. First, CRL and Arcom are not two different companies that “partner” as described by Ms Rupnick, spokesperson and employee of CRL. In fact, CRL is owned by Arcom, which is owned by a company called ANDEV.

From the Arcom website: ( “Community Retirement Living (CRL) is a wholly owned subsidiary of ANDEV/ARCOM.”

Andev/Arcom is a large development company with “projects” in the US, Canada, Mexico and Israel. Their website lists 33 corporations, centers and institutes and academies owned and operated by the company.

From the Andev website ( “ANDEV Group, LLC (ANDEV) is a real estate and healthcare business development group based in Chicago, Illinois… ANDEV’s affiliates, ARCOM Management and CRL (Community Retirement Living).” The photo on the homepage of the (Chicago-based) ANDEV website is of none other than Dan Anbar himself.

From blbain’s post (3/15-5:41 PM), according to Rupnick, “In 2002, did Ganther and CRL work together on the first proposed Mercy project? No. Arcom, a development company had partnered with Gitchie-Gumee on the first proposed project. However, due to differing visions for the scheduling of the proposed project, dissolved the relationship in early February 2004, prior to the financing and permitting”

Rupnick’s answer doesn’t address the question. The question pertains to 2002, not what happened in 2004, when the “relationship” was dissolved. So for two years, Anbar/Arcom and Ganther WERE working together on the Mercy project. For Rupnick, a CRL employee to say “no,” is just a plain lie.

Again from the Arcom website, “Lakeshore Place is a joint venture between ANDEV/ARCOM and Ganther Construction. The partnership has acquired the vacant Mercy Hospital and Medical Center site on Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, WI.”

And then from the Mon 10-June-2002, Oshkosh Northwestern, Developer switches gears on riverfront condo project, BY KARL EBERT, “Dan Anbar, his partner in a proposed redevelopment of the former Mercy Medical Center hospital, bought one-third of the project and brought with him expertise in developing housing for the elderly.”

So clearly, CRL (actually ARCDOM - ANDEV), did in fact “work together” on the first Mercy project. CRL’s parent company, as Andev, states the first Mercy project was a “joint venture between ANDEV/ARCOM and Ganther Construction.”

That joint venture was Gitchi-Gumee LLC, which after obtaining $800,000 in TIF from the city, was sold to Ganther for $1. Why did Anbar sell GG to Ganther for a buck after getting the 800K?

Rupnick’s attempts to paint the situation as Arcom, CRL and Ganther as separate, unassociated companies that coincidentally happen to be working together again is pure spin. It appears the partnerships between Ganther, Anbar, Andev, Arcom and CRL are older and deeper than we know.

The 2002 deal was between Ganther and Arcom. The new deal is between Ganther and CRL. But it is the exact same players and they now have pursuaded the city to give them $3.5 million dollars (counting both TIF deals, and TIFs ARE public money). If I were on the counsel, I would have liked to have been made aware of this fact. As the old adage goes, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”

March 17, 2007 11:07 AM  

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