Homewood Trustee Tom Kataras is enduring stern criticism from his peers after voicing his opinion Tuesday night in support of giving $80,000 in TIF money to a dental group that purchased his old restaurant.
Kataras, who formerly owned and operated Tom's Family Restaurant in Homewood, remains president of the corporation that holds the mortgage both Drs. Eldridge are now paying. Because of this, Homewood Village Attorney Chris Cummings advised him not to speak on any matters discussing the TIF allocation.
Trustee Kataras refrained from initial commentary, but later erupted as Trustee Ray Robertson was bringing up the issue of the new owners towing cars from their parking lot.
"For four years, we had problems with parking," Kataras said. "I was a nice guy and allowed people to park there for free. (The Elridges) shouldn't be penalized for that.
"This gentleman has been a businessman for 21 years. He's investing over a million dollars. I'm really disappointed."
During tenser-than-usual closing comments, Trustee Barbara Dawkins blasted Kataras for opening his mouth on the issue. Now, Trustee Anne Colton is joining the criticism of Kataras' outburst.
"I cannot believe that Trustee Kataras did not recuse himself on this issue," Colton said. "Sure, he abstained from voting, but he should have also abstained from speaking … He and members of his family have a financial interest in this business's success, and he attempted to use his influence as a Village Trustee to enrich himself. It is extremely unethical and terribly disappointing."
Kataras doesn't see it that way. According to him, the outcome of Tuesday night's decision had no financial bearing on him or his corporation.
"I have no financial involvement aside from the (mortgage holding) corporation, which my mother owns 100 percent of the stock of," Kataras said. "There is no interest."
Kataras says he wasn't planning on saying anything until he heard skepticism and "misinformation" from the other trustees and public commenters. In his opinion, the original $200,000 TIF fund request should have been considered.
"The staff was basing their entire recommendation in comparison to The Cottage," Kataras said. "We should have used apples and apples. I think the board missed it. Dr. Eldridge is investing a lot of money in Homewood.
"The Eldridges have been in business in town for over 20 years. I wanna invest in a guy that I know is gonna pay his taxes."