Rev. Finney on Chicago Inspector General Ferguson's probe: He's gone fishin'

Rev. Finney on Chicago Inspector General Ferguson's probe: He's gone fishin'
Photo by March Monaghan

Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson might as well hang a "Gone Fishin'" sign on his office door as far as Rev. Leon Finney, Jr. is concerned.

Earlier this month, Ferguson's office issued subpoenas to take a look at Finney's personal statements detailing development deals, as well as those from his Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church, and his former restaurant, Leon's.

This week, Finney, the once clout-heavy, but now controversial community developer who founded the Woodlawn Community Development Corp., responded with a suit of his own to prevent Ferguson from peeking at his finances, the Chicago Sun-Times reported today.

Ferguson's subpoenas, Finney lawsuit says, are a "fishing expedition."

The Inspector General subpoenaed Lakeside Bank, which Finney has done business with in the past, to examine Finney's statements from 2008-2011.

The gist of Finney's suit is that Ferguson has no legal right to look at his finances because none of the entities in question had any contracts with the city during those four years.

The Inspector General's Office, through spokesman Jon Davey, declined to comment on questions about the lawsuit or the earlier subpoena.

"We were served with the responding documents, I can confirm that," Davey told The Chicago Reporter.

Davey did say there will be a hearing Friday at the Daley Center at 10:30 a.m.

Finney spent a decent chunk of his life securing social programs and affordable housing developments in mostly African American, low-income neighborhoods in Chicago.

Since 1971, the Woodlawn Community Development Corp. has overseen some $300 million in community development, a lot of which happened with government money.

Finney has also spent significant time greasing elbows with political movers and shakers.

He served on the Chicago Plan Commission for more than three decades and was one of former Mayor Richard M. Daley's most significant black supporters.

Finney's troubled finances have been a matter of public record for some time now.

In January, The Chicago Reporter published an extensive investigation into Finney, and the Woodlawn Community Development Corp. and its sister organizations.

The article disclosed the organizations' cash-flow problems, lawsuits it was involved in, allegations of serious building neglect, cases of employees not being paid for extensive amounts of time, and other issues.

NBC 5 partnered with the Reporter to air some of that coverage in two segments, here and here.

The Illinois Department of Human Services launched an investigation following reports that employees at Entry House--an affiliated organization--hadn't been paid and that $1.6 million in state money might have been misused.

A representative from DHS refused to comment on the status of that investigation.

As for the current bout between Finney and Ferguson, Finney believes the Inspector General is really after The Woodlawn Organization, a sister agency to the Woodlawn Community Development Corp.

The Woodlawn Organization manages a "steady stream of [government] anti-poverty money it gets each year", the Reporter article noted.

Finney used to head TWO, but stepped down in 2008.

This is not the first go Finney has had with a city Inspector General.

Back in 2003, the Inspector General discovered Woodlawn Community Development Corp. was paying the CHA to do work to public housing units, when in fact work was being done to Finney's church.

In addition to Finney's current legal melee, federal authorities are investigating Woodlawn Community Development Corp., following allegations that it overcharged the Gary Housing Authority by $850,000.

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