By Illinois Review
It pays to be friends with Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau, literally, as one local realty firm has discovered, when last March, Pekau and the village board voted in favor of signing a six-figure consulting agreement with one of the mayor’s biggest donors to develop village-owned property along one of Orland Park’s busiest corridors.
Edwards Realty, a longtime supporter and campaign contributor to both Pekau’s mayoral and congressional campaigns, was hired in March of 2021 to consult the mayor and village board on ways to develop Orland Park’s Main Street Triangle property.
The Memorandum of Understanding and consulting agreement signed by Pekau and Edwards Realty president Ramzi Hassan, a longtime friend and close ally of the mayor, included a $10,000 a month retainer for twelve months.
In announcing the partnership between the village and one of the mayor’s biggest campaign contributors, Pekau stated,
“Being a local developer and Orland Park resident, Edwards Realty Company understands what will make this project successful in the eyes of residents.”
In response, Hassan expressed excitement about the new project that included a lucrative consulting deal for his company, stating,
“We have been excited about this project from Day 1 and look forward to working closely with the village to develop the Downtown Main Street Triangle site.”
The land development deal is estimated to cost around $253 million, and the village is expected to share around $50 million.
In November of 2022, the village board voted to reimburse Edwards Realty up to $1 million in potential costs as it related to the development project, and could assist Hassan in the purchase of the village-owned land.
In 2020, Edwards Realty sponsored a Pekau for Mayor golf outing, tweeting a photo from their official account of Hassan in front his sponsorship sign.
In 2021, the Edwards Realty Facebook page posted a news story about Pekau, writing,
“Thank you Keith Pekau for your leadership. We look forward to continued collaboration and progress on the Triangle project…we are excited to bring our unique perspective on the area to create a leading development for the benefit and enjoyment of the community.”
During Pekau’s congressional campaign in 2022, the Federal Elections Commission website shows Hassan and employees of Edwards Realty donating $15,400 to his failed bid for Congress.
Hassan also maxed out his personal campaign contribution to Pekau’s congressional account, donating $5,800.
Hassan was also listed as the primary sponsor of Pekau’s boat cruise during his primary congressional campaign.
In 2019, Hassan donated $1,000 to Keith for Mayor.
But Hassan doesn’t just donate to his friend Pekau.
On December 27, 2022, he made a $5,000 personal contribution to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is trailing in polls as she struggles to keep her job as mayor.
Under Lightfoot, homicides in Chicago have skyrocketed; carjackings are on the rise; she remains critical of the police; and residents and businesses are fleeing the city in droves.
In a city known for its “pay-to-play” style of politics, perhaps Hassan is exploring potential deals in Chicago – hence, a $5,000 donation to a wildly unpopular mayor.
But if Hassan is looking to replicate his suburban success in downtown Chicago, his campaign donations to power-hungry mayors will attract the attention and questions from more than just the press.