PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — For the second time in a year, an trio of appellate court judges have sided with a Peoria judge saying a lawsuit filed by the former developers of the Hotel Pere Marquette was fundamentally flawed.
In a 9-page order, handed down Friday by the 4th District Appellate Court in Springfield, the judges said the suit, filed in 2019 by Gary Matthews and Monte Brannan against the city of Peoria and its former mayor Jim Ardis, was rightfully dismissed by a Peoria County judge first in 2021 and then later again in 2022.
The reason the appellate court was able to weigh in twice was that Brannan and Matthews appealed first in late 2021 when Peoria County Judge David Browned sided with City Hall. They lost that first appeal and the case came back and was dismissed in a final order by Judge Stuart Umholtz.
Matthews and Brannan appealed that and Friday’s ruling was with regards to that.
In 2019, the two sued City Hall, alleging it was them not the city or taxpayers who was harmed by the hotel’s problems. They claimed that city officials’ actions tanked the deal. As such, the hotel went into foreclosure, they filed for bankruptcy and were forced out from their management positions and lost money.
The case was tossed in late 2021 because the judge found they had no standing or no reason to bring the case. They appealed and lost in 2022.
Then on Sept. 29, another trio of judges held the case failed to state a cause of action, legalese for saying that even if all the allegations were true, there’s no legal way to make things right.
Last’s week ruling is the latest in the ongoing legal tussle involving the Downtown Peoria hotel.
Initially, the hotel project and the partnership with Matthews and Brannan was seen as a good thing and the City Council approved a loan to the hotel as it was seen as a way to revitalize Downtown. however, things quickly went south and taxpayers were left on the hook for about $7 million.
The two were indicted in December 2020 on charges of money laundering and mail fraud. The charges allege the two took $750,000 from the hotel and diverted it to themselves after the hotel went into foreclosure. They are also accused of taking $1.6 million from the hotel bank account.
That trial is to begin later this month. If convicted, they could face up to 20 years in prison.