Green Bay mayor denies mishandling funds with Hotel Northland project

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt is speaking out against the accusations from five city aldermen that he mishandled finances with the Hotel Northland project,

"I'm telling you that these people are followers of Guy Zima, who is a manipulative, mean-spirited person, and until they really understand the issues and take time to sit down and read what happened with the Hotel Northland and understand the process, they'll have a better understanding and this silliness will go away,," Mayor Schmitt told Local 5.

Five aldermen, including Tom De Wane, Mark Steuer, Guy Zima, Chris Wery, and Andy Nicholson, held a news conference on Monday announcing that they have asked the Brown County district attorney to review documents that may show the mayor mishandled finances with Hotel Northland.

The aldermen accused the mayor of transferring more than $3.2 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the bank account of the Hotel Northland owner, Keith Harenda.

The $3.2 million was designated for the senior lender on the hotel renovation project, Huntington Bank.

Huntington Bank had given a $12.8 million loan to the developers for the hotel renovations, but later pulled out of the deal because developers defaulted on the loan.

Schmitt said the claim that he sent $3.2 million to Keith Harenda's BMO Harris bank account was false.

"It's not true either, we've been through that too right, and we've talked about this, it's been properly vetted, and the money went where it was supposed to go, and went through titles so that's another ridiculous non-issue that for some reason they like to stir up," Schmitt said. 

The five aldermen also accuse the mayor of requesting $500,000 from the Redevelopment Authority as a bridge loan to keep the project going, and to pay contractors and sub-contractors who were working on renovations. The aldermen say it was a cover-up to actually give the $500,000 to Keith Harenda to help him buy the former hotel co-owner, Mike Frantz, out of the hotel.

Earlier this year, City Council rejected the loan request after the Redevelopment Authority approved it. 

"They can say whatever they want, I mean they're just a mean-spirited, uninformed group of people so I can't help what they say and how they think," Schmitt said about the five aldermen when Local 5 asked about the accusation.

Alderman Randy Scannell says he wished his colleagues had brought this to the attention of the entire City Council before going public with such heavy accusations.

However, he says that he would like to know the details about the $3.2 million transfer.

"For me that's the biggest issue, the one I have the most questions on, I mean there was an error made, I'd like to know how the error was made, I'd like to know who discovered the error, and how was it found out about," Scannell said. "I'd like to know did the money, the money was supposed to go to a developer expenses I believe, did it end up doing that?"

Scannell told Local 5 that workers will be back renovating Hotel Northland this month, with a goal of opening next year. 


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