Community development director discovered Administrator Tim Savage’s role in proposed cannabis business

MACHESNEY PARK — Community Development Director James Richter II is managing the village's day-to-day affairs after trustees on Monday limited the duties of Village Administrator Tim Savage.

The restrictions on Savage's job come after trustees and Village President Steve Johnson learned that he is an equity partner in Grow 815 LLC, a proposed cannabis business for which the village staff approved a zoning permit before discovering Savage's financial stake in the venture.

Trustees moved their board meetings online weeks ago amid the coronavirus pandemic, but convened in person, and mostly in private, at Village Hall on Monday to discuss limiting Savage's role to avoid further conflicts of interest until his scheduled resignation July 31.

Savage will work with Richter "on any issues, tasks or duties that require his specific input, signature or approval," according to a resolution that trustees approved after emerging from their closed-door discussion on Monday.

In addition, Savage will work with the village attorney to finalize a contract for police services between the village and the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department, and he'll remain available to consult or provide input to the village staff and trustees as needed, participate in board meetings and handle other special duties or transition issues as needed.

Richter didn't discover Savage's role in Grow 815 until April 17 — nearly a month after his department had approved a zoning permit for the business — according to a memo from Richter that the Register Star obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

Approval of the zoning permit paved the way for Grow 815 to establish a cannabis growing operation on a 48-acre parcel owned by Sunil Puri, one of the village's most prominent developers, at the junction of Illinois 173 and Interstate 90.

Savage said last week that the business won't materialize at all unless the Illinois Department of Agriculture approves Grow 815's pending application for a craft grower license. Additionally, he said, the business partners have decided not to build in Machesney Park. The business would be established elsewhere in Winnebago County, Savage said. He declined to identify the location.

State records show that in addition to Savage and Puri, the other Grow 815 LLC stakeholders are Mike LaLoggia of Rockford and Savana Savage of Tinley Park, who is Savage's niece.

Puri, president of First Midwest Group, has developed myriad retail establishments in Machesney Park — and has been awarded taxpayer subsidies for many of them — since Savage became the village’s first full-time administrator in 2011. Among those incentives was a $440,000 subsidy the village approved in 2016 to offset the company’s $1.2 million investment in a road it built through its 48-acre property at 173 and I-90.

Isaac Guerrero:; @isaac_rrs