Investigate $500,000 deal in Centreville

September 11, 2013 

Attorneys for Centreville and a development company say that a dispute over a $500,000 payment appears headed for a civil lawsuit. Really? It sounds to us like this matter should be headed for a criminal investigation.

Just to recap the whole sorry story:

In early 2012 Centreville wired $500,000 in tax money to development company Strong Holding LLC to help purchase a 55-acre tract -- without a written development agreement. Supposedly the land was needed to build a hotel and lock factory. But surprise, no development happened despite the land purchase, and nothing is on the horizon. In addition, the development company's attorney is accusing Centreville of gross mismanagement of tax funds.

How does a city give away half a million dollars without an agreement in place? If that doesn't amount to misconduct of some sort, it should.

And what about the company's responsibility? Developer Roger Strong previously called the city's decision to give away the money before the deal was signed "absolutely ignorant," which is true. Still, if taking taxpayer money and not following through on a promised development isn't against the law, it should be.

The taxpayers are on the hook for $500,000, and they have waited long enough for the attorneys to work this out. Time for St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly to send in investigators to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.

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