Presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois

A judge said former Mayor Richard M. Daley is going to need a good medical reason to avoid testifying in the city’s case that seeks to break a sweetheart deal the politically connected owners of the Park Grill restaurant got under the former mayor. | Sun-Times file photo

Judge to Daley lawyers: Explain why ex-mayor shouldn’t testify

A Cook County judge told lawyers for former Mayor Richard M. Daley on Tuesday they need to show a medical reason why Daley shouldn’t be required to testify in the city’s case that seeks to break a sweetheart deal the Park Grill restaurant got under the former mayor to operate at Millennium Park.

Cook County Circuit Judge Moshe Jacobius also questioned their request to have a closed-door hearing to discuss Daley’s unspecified medical condition.

The former mayor is a key witness for the Park Grill’s operators, who maintain that he and his City Hall staff were intimately involved in planning the restaurant, which landed a 30-year concession agreement from the Chicago Park District.

Daley’s attorney Terrence Burns argued Tuesday that Daley shouldn’t be required to testify because of his health. Also, he argued it’s evident from the three-hour deposition Daley gave in the case last August that he recalls little about the Park Grill negotiations.

RELATED: Former Mayor Daley OK for trip to Texas, but not trial testimony

Jacobius said not remembering much isn’t going to get Daley out of testifying.

“I respectfully reject that and don’t find that is a basis for quashing a subpoena,” the judge said. “He no longer is a mayor and is a private citizen and should be held to the same standard as a private citizen.”

Citing “the significant privacy interests at issue and publicity concerns relating to Mr. Daley’s status as a public figure,” Daley’s lawyers had offered to tell the judge more about the health issue at a hearing they asked be held outside of public view.

Jacobius said he’s “a little unclear” why that shouldn’t be open to the public. But he scheduled a July 23 hearing to decide whether to hold a closed, “in camera” session on the ormer mayor's health.

Daley’s lawyers argue it would be “a medical hardship” for him to testify.

Daley, 72, suffered a stroke earlier this year, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported. He was rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Jan. 31, the day his nephew Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of David Koschman a decade ago.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel filed suit against the Park Grill three years ago to break what the city’s lawyers called “a lopsided contract that cheated taxpayers” out of $8 million in revenue since the restaurant opened in 2004.

City Hall, under Emanuel, argues that the lease was illegal because the park district allowed the restaurant to operate on land controlled by the city without first seeking permission from the City Council.

During the negotiations that led to the deal, one of the Park Grill’s operators, Matthew O’Malley, was having an affair with a top park district official, Laura Foxgrover, who became pregnant.

O’Malley and his partner James Horan had been trying to sell the Park Grill’s management company for $8 million when the Emanuel administration sued. They argue that City Hall didn’t object to the park district lease during the meetings they had with Daley and his staff while planning construction of the restaurant.