Former Park District official Laura O'Malley was back on the stand Thursday as City Hall tries to void the contract for the Park Grill restaurant in Millennium Park. Much of the trial has focused on O'Malley's sexual relationship in 2001 and 2002 with restaurateur Matthew O'Malley, who was part of the group that won the city bidding for the lucrative deal to run the restaurant.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration wants a Cook County judge to break the 2003 contract on the grounds the Park District didn't have authority to make the deal and also arguing that Laura O'Malley unfairly influenced the bid process to help Matthew O'Malley, who she was having an affair with then and has since married.
Much of Laura O'Malley's 10 hours of testimony over two days has focused on what she knew about the bidding process and what she told Matthew O'Malley about it. With city lawyers trying to paint her as integral to the bidding process, O'Malley spent a lot of time answering "I can't recall" to questions about bid meetings, negotiations over the restaurant contract and conversations she may have had with Matthew O'Malley and his partners in the clout-heavy restaurant group.
Later Thursday, when she told Park Grill lawyers she wouldn't have spoken to O'Malley about the bidding, Judge Moshe Jacobius threw his hands up.
"This is a quagmire," Jacobius said of eliciting slightly different answers from O'Malley to very similar questions about discussions that may or may not have happened more than a decade ago. "She told us 'I don't remember' on almost everything. 'I don't remember.'"
"You could come up with an answer, I could come up with an answer, (O'Malley) could come up with an answer, but it's conjecture," the judge said. In the end, Jacobius allowed Park Grill lawyers to continue their line of questioning, but it has been slow going, with constant objections from both sides throughout O'Malley's testimony.
Her recollections briefly strayed from the script of bidding meetings and 12-year-old emails today, when O'Malley talked about her decision to resign from the Park District at the end of 2003 during a fight over the sign that had been approved to hang outside the Park Grill.
Mayor Richard Daley complained he had not approved the sign design, and O'Malley said then-Park District CEO David Doig lied to the mayor and told Daley that she had gone off on her own and approved it. In fact, O'Malley testified, Doig had given the OK for the sign without running it past Daley.
"I had to leave because I couldn't trust David," O'Malley said of her decision to step down, her voice cracking on the witness stand.
Shortly after leaving the Park District, O'Malley said she got a call from a Daley assistant saying the mayor wanted to see her. When she got to his 5th floor office at City Hall, O'Malley said the mayor immediately asked her "Why did you leave?"
"David lied to me," O'Malley said she told Daley.
"Yeah, he's lied to me too," Daley responded, according to O'Malley.
Within a few months, Doig had resigned as Park District CEO and been replaced by Tim Mitchell. Laura O'Malley had a new job back at the Park District shortly after that.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun