Bankrupt Country Club Hills police chief part of failed ventures
By Lauren FitzPatrick and Casey Toner Sun-Times Media July 15, 2011 11:06PM
Country Club Hills Police Chief Regina Evans leaves the Monadnock building in 2009 in Chicago after speaking with attorney Terry Gillespie regarding the Christopher Kelly case. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 2, 2011 12:00AM
The police chief of Country Club Hills, who with her husband earns more than $200,000 courtesy of city taxpayers, apparently is broke.
Thanks to a series of failed businesses, including theaters they ran on Chicago’s South Side and in Dolton, Regina Evans and her husband, Ronald Evans, the inspector general of the city of 16,000, have declared personal bankruptcy.
When Regina Evans, a retired Chicago police lieutenant, was hired in 2009 by Mayor Dwight Welch, she already was deeply in debt. By the time her husband, also a former Chicago cop, joined her on the city payroll in 2010 in a job that tasks him with investigating her and at least one other relative working for the city, the couple had filed for bankruptcy reorganization of their business, The Prime Time Group.
In the personal bankruptcy filings in March, they say they owe $4.5 million.
They claimed assets of a checking account with $400.
The Evanses had walked away from commercial leases, loans, credit card bills and big mortgages and faced lawsuits against themselves, their companies and a not-for-profit foundation that Regina Evans founded named “We Are Our Brother’s Keeper.” They faced foreclosure on several properties.
They failed to show up for numerous lawsuit hearings, resulting in hefty judgments against them. And one of their attorneys dropped them, telling a Cook County judge he couldn’t get them to answer his correspondence in the case.
Evans did not return multiple phone messages for comment.
Before her hiring as police chief was finalized, Country Club Hills police officials conducted a background check on her. The deputy commander in March 2009 sent Welch a memo, obtained by Sun-Times Media, saying the search’s results advised against hiring Evans.
Welch denied ever seeing the memo and called its author disgruntled. He said he doesn’t bother with his employees’ personal business.
“She’s done a wonderful job ,and I feel bad she’s had some personal issues,” he said.
In the March 2009 memo, then-deputy Cmdr. David Palmer says information omitted from Evans’ application pertaining to her businesses and debt sent up red flags.
“If you take time to read the investigative reports, it should become obvious that the information in question in the application was deliberately misleading,” the memo says. “Based on the above, I believe if she was to be hired, there will be a very embarrassing moment in the future for the city of Country Club Hills.”
Regal Theater problems
After retiring from the Chicago Police Department, the Evanses decided to restore and run the historic New Regal Theater on 79th Street in Chicago, buying it in 2008 for $2.36 million with the help of the city forgiving about $1.9 million in prior loans on the property.
The Prime Time Group also received a $200,000 loan from CEDA of Cook County.
CEDA attorney Joel Handler said the couple didn’t pay the loan back or hire any of the people the money was supposed to pay for. And Prime Time got its check upfront, then failed to turn in more documents as promised, he said.
“Before she (Evans) was supposed to get the money, she was supposed to present certain invoices,” he said.
Handler, who’s trying to free CEDA’s loan from the bankruptcy case, told a federal judge that Evans and Prime Time never intended to repay the money.
Later in 2008, Evans hired a consultant to write grants on behalf of her foundation, which she wanted to use to start a pre-apprentice program, build a parking garage for the theater and start a boot camp in the south suburbs.
The consultant, James Battieste, sued her for not paying him $170,000. He believed he was successful in getting Evans grant money, including through the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity, though that agency couldn’t confirm that on Friday.
“Supposedly what should have been possibly an easy business relationship didn’t work out,” Battieste said. “When it came down for pay, she wasn’t able to be found. She had other obligations that were probably pending before me.”
Failed Dolton nightclub
Meanwhile, in 2007, the Evanses started Premier Entertainment Center LLC, planning to replace the Jo River Center in Dolton with a nightclub of their own. Jo River closed in July 2007, in a shambles, after hosting some big-name acts such as Ludacris and R. Kelly, according to a lawsuit filed against its operators.
The Evanses rented the building, 300 W. Sibley Blvd., and opened the doors for shows and banquets in November 2007. Premier booked big acts such as rapper Lil Wayne and BET comedy show performers and local events.
But Dolton police records show many calls to the center. Fights broke out. And according to one lawsuit against the center, a Wisconsin woman attending a show in July 2008 said she was hurt during a concert.
“During the event the scene at the Premier Entertainment Center became chaotic, with fights breaking out and individuals robbing members of the audience,” according to the suit.
While applying for the chief’s job, Regina Evans walked away from the Dolton center lease. Her last valid rent check cleared in December 2008, court filings show.
She left a tax bill, too, according to the resulting lawsuit. Its judgment accounts for more than $1.75 million of her debt. It was entered against her after she didn’t show up in court or respond in any way to her summons.
In becoming Country Club Hills’ police chief, Evans was the first black female to head a police force in the south suburbs.
She was young, Ald. Vincent Lockett said, for someone who had retired from Chicago police as a lieutenant. She seemed like a go-getter.
Welch wanted her to replace his retiring chief, and Evans came with excellent recommendations, the mayor said, from Chicago police and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. Her transportation company had done good work for the Country Club Hills amphitheater, transporting entertainers.
“That’s how we know her,” Welch said. “She would drive the stars around.”
Prime Time was paid $254,385 from Aug. 2, 2006 until Aug. 23, 2008 for its chauffeuring work for the city, according to invoices obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
When the Dolton theater venture collapsed, Ronald Evans was out of a job and surrounded by lawsuits.
Welch boss swooped in with an offer — $89,000 a year to be city inspector general, with the power and mandate to investigate alleged wrongdoing by city workers and officials, including his wife and his brother-in-law, who’s a recent addition to the city payroll.
Regina Evans now has a salary of $123,821 as chief. Her husband got a big raise and now earns $109,281, according to the city.
Lockett said he and other aldermen who approved Regina Evans’ hiring didn’t know about her financial history. They never saw any background report.
Welch came to aldermen with the recommendation, saying Evans was “well-qualified, a retired lieutenant out of Chicago, lots of police background, and that’s pretty much it,” Lockett said. “I hate now that we didn’t get a chance to review any background or anything on her.”