Village of Dolton, Illinois
It remains unclear if programs to entice prospective homeowners into buying refurbished, formerly abandoned homes in Dolton and nearby Markham have achieved their stated goals of reducing blight and revitalizing the tax bases of the economically distressed South Suburban communities.
No documents detailing the outcomes of the programs appear to exist, and no one involved with the projects – including government officials, lawyers and developers – have responded to requests for comment from South Cook News.
This much is known:
Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso of Grasso Bass, P.C.
Dolton resident Pink Dorsey IV says he lost $80,000 investing in a housing program enacted in Markham in 2013, according to a 2018 feature article on Dolton by the Better Government Association (BGA). Others have registered complaints about the Markham program as well.
Dorsey blames his losses on a developer, BP Capital, involved with the Markham program as well as a similar program introduced by the Village of Dolton in 2017 under the name, “Invest in Dolton.” Dorsey’s attorney Michael Childers also points a finger at the Hinsdale law firm of Grasso Bass, P.C., which was hired as “special counsel” for both the Dolton and Markham programs to work through the courts to procure titles to the abandoned homes.
“It thus appears that although Markham’s Special Counsel utterly failed to fulfill its obligations under this Redevelopment Agreement, the properties were still marketed as if they were titled to Markham,” Childers wrote in a March 2019 letter obtained by South Cook News. “Indeed, Mr. Dorsey was specifically told that the ‘title to the property is currently held in the name of the City of Markham pursuant to the Redevelopment Agreement and upon completion of the renovation, the City would convey the title to [Mr. Dorsey].’”
Another document obtained by South Cook News shows that Grasso Bass, P.C. billed Dolton $30,000 in December 2017 for six properties to cover “attorneys fees, court costs, sheriff’s fees and recording costs.”
And court documents show that in October 2018, Gary Grasso, representing a group called Relion Homes, LLC, sued Dolton Mayor Riley Rogers over blocking the transfer of a deed for a residential property that showed the title was held by Relion. Relion is described in the lawsuit as a “joint-venture partner” of BP Capital.
The court filing includes a statement from Michael Grasso, who describes himself as “Manager Member of Relion Homes, LLC.” Gary Grasso has a son, Michael, according to MyLife.com.
Gary Grasso, the mayor of Burr Ridge, is also an officer in Grasso Bass, P.C., according to records with the Illinois Secretary of State. Attorney Anthony Bass is no longer affiliated with the firm, the law office said. Neither individual has responded to requests for comment on the programs.
Also not responding to interview requests were Don Meadows, head of BP Capital; Dolton Mayor Riley Rogers; any of the Dolton village trustees, and Markham Mayor Roger Agpawa.
It bears noting that Agpawa and former Markham Mayor David Webb have both had past run-ins with the law. In 1999, Agpawa was convicted of felony mail fraud, and Webb pleaded guilty to bribery in January 2018 in a case unrelated to the home-refurbishment program.
The 2017 ordinance that established Invest in Dolton stated that those buying the refurbished homes were required to live in them to take advantage of the program. But the Freedom of Information officer for the village told South Cook News that no village documents exist assessing how successful the program was in encouraging people to move to the village.
Dolton's housing market is experiencing historic lows, according to the BGA article.
“Veteran real estate broker Anton Sharpe said few customers looking to buy in Dolton these days intend to actually live in the homes,” the article stated. “’Whenever the property values go down like they did out here, as long as they go down like that, that’s when the investor market gets hyper,” Sharpe was quoted as saying. “'The rents never go down, so it’s a win-win for them. Think about all the people who got foreclosed on — now you got a larger volume of potential tenants.'
“At the same time, the ranks of absentee landlords in Dolton has swelled,” the article continued. “Over the last 12 years alone, the number of taxpayers who own Dolton residences but have out-of-state mailing addresses has increased by 520 percent, according to information from the Cook County assessor.”