Mayor's office: Public funds meant for Hotel Northland, not to buy out partner

Hotel Northland seen from street level

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – A statement from the Green Bay mayor's office expresses disappointment after newly unsealed documents suggest the city was involved in Hotel Northland's ownership battle.

Those documents show Michael Frantz and Keith Harenda disagree over who owns Hotel Northland downtown.

An email between lawyers, including the city attorney, discusses a request from Harenda for an additional $500,000 from the city.

Harenda withdrew that request, but the email suggests the money would have been used by Harenda to buy out Frantz -- in essence using taxpayer dollars to help settle the ownership dispute.

In a statement, Mayor Jim Schmitt's chief of staff says that email mischaracterizes the city's involvement.

I am very disappointed to learn what was in the sealed court files regarding the private dispute over the ownership of Hotel Northland, LLC, especially with one document that mischaracterizes the nature of the role City staff and I played in facilitating the settlement negotiations between two parties.

Staff and I agreed to facilitate settlement negotiations because we knew that protracted litigation (like they were heading towards) would make it infinitely more difficult to find a senior lender. Our role at all times to keep the conversations open and the parties working towards a resolution to ensure the Hotel Northland project is successful.

Neither I nor City staff ever agreed to buy out Mr. Frantz, or to give funds to Mr. Harenda for that purpose. We made it clear at every point that any request to the City for a loan was exclusively for the project, and that it was contingent on City Council approval. The loan request was then sent to the RDA, but the developer withdrew the request before a vote was taken by the City Council, because they notified the City that the other junior lenders were able to provide additional assistance to keep the project moving forward.

My staff and I have always acted in the best interests of the City and I am offended by the accusations that the City would choose one owner over another. All junior lenders, especially the City have one goal: to open the Hotel Northland this year as a luxurious, historically-significant, well-financed, and professionally-managed property.

The city council is expected to discuss the Hotel Northland project on Thursday.

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