Illinois AG stands by Winnetka officials as Ishbia project, security stir pot

Raoul’s office rules village didn’t violate open meetings rules

Raoul Stands by Winnetka Officials as Ishbia Project Stirs Pot

From left: Attorney General of Illinois Kwame Raoul and Justin Ishbia (Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty and Google Maps)

Justin Ishbia’s planned $44M estate in Winnetka, and the security team now patrolling the lakefront property, continues to consume public officials and local residents.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office was the latest to weigh in on a controversy stemming from the billionaire’s planned megamansion on the shore of Lake Michigan. Raoul’s Public Access Counselor, an office charged with resolving public records disputes, found that the village of Winnetka did not breach Illinois’ Open Meetings Act during discussions concerning properties owned by the Ishbia, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The ruling was regarding a challenge filed by Winnetka resident Ted Wynnychenko, who alleged the village council didn’t have reason to go into closed session during a December meeting at which Ishbia and his wife Kristin were attempting to get approval to consolidate multiple lakefront parcels into one for their project.

The council unanimously approved the merging of four lots into a single 3.7-acre tract for the Ishbias’ new megamansion as the heated discussion sparked multiple parties to claim they would bring lawsuits against the village.

“Both sides, the property owner and those objecting to the resolution, threatened the village with litigation in open session that night,” Village Attorney Peter Friedman said during an Aug. 1 council meeting, regarding Raoul’s ruling from earlier that day. “In an extended closed session, the board engaged in a productive and creative discussion on how to navigate the resolution in order to protect the village from litigation.”

The challenge was further fueled by another Winnetka resident and Ishbia’s lawyer, Adam Hoeflich, both claiming they would file lawsuits against the village. Hoeflich insisted that the village had to approve the consolidation since all applications were complete and no laws were violated.

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While Raoul’s ruling backed the council’s closed session discussions, Wynnychenko expressed concerns during the Dec. 6 meeting about potential attempts to convert state land into private property through the consolidation.

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Friedman clarified that probable or imminent litigation, as threatened twice that evening, fell within authorized closed session topics under the Open Meetings Act.

Ishbia’s property has recently undergone significant changes, including bulldozed homes, trees and the bluff, as well as the addition of a security team amid construction. The project prompted the council to suspend new bluff and tableland construction, while investigating potential environmental impacts.

Ishbia’s plans have also drawn criticism from residents like Mary Garrison and Vicki Apatoff, who were recently met by a security guard when near Ishbia’s property line. Police have been called regarding the matter and established that passersby aren’t trespassing onto the billionaire’s land if their feet remain in the lake water and they don’t venture onto private property, the outlet reported.

— Quinn Donoghue