Dear readers, do you remember Dick Wendt? He's a private attorney with the law firm Dickinson Wright P.L.L.C. who the City of Grand Rapids has on retainer. A few years back Wendt negotiated on behalf of the City a hefty tax subsidy for the developers of the Boardwalk project (a.k.a. Toxic Towers), who just happened to be clients of his law firm. Obviously a conflict of interest. You'd think that's why the City has a dozen lawyers in the City Attorney's Office: To avoid the divided loyalties of a private attorney brings to the table.
Well, Wendt is back at screwing City taxpayers again. He tried to close the meetings City officials are having with each developers who has submitted a proposal to redevelop the site of the old public parking ramp on the corner of Division and Fulton. Wendt wanted the arm-twisting and back-slapping to be done behind closed doors until a deal was struck, leaving the public in the dark as to how the winning developer was selected -- a crucial issue now that Mayor Heartwell announced that the highest bidder for the City-owned parcel will not necessarily prevail.
Apparently City officials figured out in time that Wendt's scheme was a naked assault upon the policy of open government. So Wendt was overruled and the meetings are now open, as they should be. Now if the mayor wants to make a decision on any basis other than who is going to give City's taxpayers the most money for the parcel, then let all of that occur under the glare of publicity. Of course, City officials didn't change their tune out of deep regard for the public interest. High-mindedness had nothing to do with letting the sun shine in. It seems some of the developers competing for the parcel had enough clout to pry open the closed doors to make sure no bid is favored except upon its merits.
Nevertheless, the public wins one for a change. Also, credit to the Grand Rapids Press for managing to squeeze in a paragraph on its editorial page lauding the City's decision. As usual, the Press kept the execrable Wendt's name out of it, as they did when he was using his position as a representative of the taxpayers to fork over a $2.5 million tax subsidy to his law firm's clients, but at least this ol' toothless watchdog let out a little yelp for a change.