A $360,000 agreement between city officials and the developers of the downtown Graduate Hotel is a delivery on a promise to some, and extortion to others.
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce say Mayor John Hamilton and other city officials skirted established processes to push for a contract with AJ Capital Partners earlier this month. Deputy Mayor Mick Renneisen said the initial contract, a memorandum of understanding, asking for more than $790,000 was a way to put the developer’s commitment to public art in writing.
Randy Lloyd, president of the chamber’s board, said the final negotiated contract was the result of the mayor’s deviation from government procedure by pressuring the developer in the final hour.
“What is unprecedented is the mayor’s office using the board of public works to extort and extract extra things out of this project after it was approved,” Lloyd said. “The process itself — whatever you’re going through — the process has to have integrity. If I do A, B and C, I should wind up somewhere around D.”
In February 2015, the Bloomington Plan Commission under former Mayor Mark Kruzan’s administration approved the site plan for the Graduate Hotel project brought forward by AJ Capital Partners. The 5-3 vote approved the petition for a six-story, 146-room hotel at 210 E. Kirkwood Ave.