For several months, Green Bay aldermen have been accusing Mayor Jim Schmitt of lying about the purpose of requested loan for the embattled Hotel Northland downtown redevelopment. On June 2nd, a former developer in the project, Mike Frantz, substantiated the aldermen’s claims on a radio talk show. As of today, only one other Green Bay media outlet (WTAQ news) has reported on Frantz’s comments.
The Green Bay Press Gazette reported that the Green Bay Redevelopment Authority initially approved KPH Hotel Northland’s request for a $500,000 bridge loan on Jan. 10. The PG reported that city officials portrayed the loan as needed to plug a funding gap created when the project’s senior lender departed. Some aldermen alleged the money was actually being used to buy Frantz out of the development, something Schmitt adamantly denied. The request for the loan ultimately was pulled.
Court documents unsealed on April 3 showed that the purpose of the loan was indeed to fund the Frantz buyout. The documents indicate that Schmitt and City Attorney Vanessa Chavez were involved in negotiating the resolution of a dispute between Frantz and Keith Harenda of KPH Hotel Northland. Frantz would have been paid in two installments using the loan money. Schmitt remained defiant, saying the court documents were wrong:
“Neither I nor city staff ever agreed to buy out Mr. Frantz, or to give funds to Mr. Harenda for that purpose,” Schmitt said. “We made it clear at every point that any request to the city for a loan was exclusively for the project, and that it was contingent on City Council approval.”
But Frantz, speaking on the Jerry Bader radio show, said that simply isn’t the case. “I don’t know really know what the motivations are here…look at the court documents, there are emails that went back and forth that are well documented, that would indicate it was very clear this money was supposed to come to me. I really don’t know why it was positioned the way it was from the city’s stand point.” Frantz made it clear that the court documents unsealed in April are not wrong:
“The Mayor and I worked very, very closely for five years on the project (Franz considered him a friend). So, I’m not in any way, shape or form here to undermine the Mayor. The reality is I was supposed to be bought ought and we agreed on the 6th of January for that to happen.”
Frantz reiterated that any suggestion that the proposed loan would have been for anything else is simply false. Since Frantz made that public declaration on June 2, no Green Bay media outlet has reported on it. Frantz was quite blunt about Schmitt and Chavez’s involvement in the loan in a follow-up text exchange with Media Trackers:
Media Trackers: Is it your recollection that you were communicating with Chavez and Schmitt and both knew the loan was for you?
Frantz: Absolutely! The idea was initiated by both.(Emphasis ours)
Frantz’s claims would seem to directly contradict Schmitt’s contention that it was clear that the money from the loan would go to the project. Meanwhile, the redevelopment project remains in limbo.
Schmitt, by a single vote, survived a city council effort to remove him last year after he was convicted of misdemeanor campaign violations. In April, an anonymous request was made for city council text messages and other electronic communication related to the hotel development. That request came about the same time Media Trackers requested Schmitt’s text messages to and from Frantz and Harenda. Schmitt did not respond to Media Tracker inquires as to whether he was involved in that open records request.
Schmitt has also declined an offer to respond to Frantz’s comments. And most of the Green Bay media has declined to notice the story.