Report: Reinsdorf, Thompson facing lawsuit
From Crain's Chicago Business:
Perri Irmer, the former head of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, has filed a lawsuit against White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and Jim Thompson, who was chairman of the organization, claiming she was fired for doing her job.
The lawsuit follows more than a year of upheaval at ISFA, the organization that manages U.S. Cellular Field.
According to her lawsuit, Ms. Irmer was fired April 25, 2011, the same day she was to meet with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to talk about how the ballpark was being run.
"Thompson gave Ms. Irmer the choice of resigning or waiting to be fired, and he added that if she refused to resign, and they 'had to' fire her, that her reputation would be ruined," her lawsuit states.
Mr. Thompson, the former governor of Illinois, called the lawsuit a "self-serving tirade," adding Ms. Irmer was let go because "the board decided they wanted a different director. Her contract had expired. She had no claim on the job."
"This lawsuit is totally without merit," a spokesman for Mr. Reinsdorf said. "Other than that, we cannot comment any further on pending litigation."
In her lawsuit, Ms. Irmer says Mr. Reinsdorf exercised "undue influence over former Governor Thompson and apparently over all the members of the ISFA Board of Directors who became complicit in allowing Reinsdorf to treat Cellular Field and the surrounding publicly owned lands as his personal fiefdom."
Though Mr. Reinsdorf owns the White Sox, he does not own the ballpark they play in, and that is the rub.
Ms. Irmer, who was hired for the job in 2004, says when she pushed for Mr. Reinsdorf to start paying rent, he sent an emissary to tell her that if she left her job quietly, he would find her a job in the private sector. In the end, Mr. Reinsdorf started paying $1.5 million a year in rent.
Shortly after Ms. Irmer was let go from ISFA in 2011, several proposals she fought were approved, including what has become a controversial deal to give free rent to Bacardi at the Park, a new restaurant paid for with public funds distributed through ISFA.
After Ms. Irmer was let go, she was temporarily replaced by Mr. Thompson, who then was replaced, at Gov. Pat Quinn's request, with Emil Jones, the former president of the Illinois Senate.
By then, the governor and mayor had started lining up new members for the board that oversees ISFA. The governor has four appointments and the mayor has three.
With a board in place and new director candidates under consideration, it looked like the governor might have had the upper hand in the selection of a new director.
When it was clear one of his board members, attorney Manny Sanchez, was going to vote for the mayor's preferred candidate, Mr. Quinn made a power play, ousting Mr. Sanchez and bringing on a new board member.
On the day of the board vote for a new director, Mr. Sanchez was relieved of his duties and a new board member was brought on as the governor's choice - former TV reporter and gubernatorial spokeswoman Kelly Kraft - to head ISFA.
In her lawsuit, Ms. Irmer asks for damages to compensate her lost income, benefits and potential earnings as well as emotional distress, pain, suffering, humiliation and damage to her reputation.