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Questions surround unfinished clinic in St. Charles

Generation Rescue denies it is building health care facility

ST. CHARLES – Actor Donnie Wahlberg’s star-studded benefit concert at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles this summer raised $759,000 for his wife’s autism charity, Generation Rescue Inc., with documents showing that the money would be allocated – at least in part – to build integrative health clinics in St. Charles and Missouri.

The event included performances by Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris from Boyz II Men, singer Ashley Rodriguez, Naughty By Nature and New Kids on the Block, of which Wahlberg is a member. He also stars in the CBS TV series “Blue Bloods.”

A news release about the concert said that “funds raised at this year’s event will be allocated to build integrative health clinics in Illinois and Missouri.”

The release also said: “Jenny McCarthy kicked off the show with a heartfelt speech to fans and announced that [there] had been a groundbreaking earlier that same day (June 19) in St. Charles of a custom-built integrative health clinic providing comprehensive treatment for all individuals across the special needs spectrum. A portion of the funds raised from both this year’s and last year’s concerts have been allocated to the clinic.”

McCarthy is Wahlberg’s wife.

But after the release was sent out and the groundbreaking took place at 157 S. Tyler Road in the city’s Tyler and 64 Business Park – documented with a photo of McCarthy in a pink hard hat – contractor Vince Fiore said construction came to an abrupt halt about a month later in July.

The unfinished building has a foundation and a roof. Its walls are up but have no siding, and a sign on the construction fence reads “No trespassing.” 

Fiore said his company, Barrington-based JV Construction Enterprises LLC, is owed nearly $511,000.

“I was trying to contact them to pay – ‘Here are your invoices’ – and then nothing,” Fiore said. “No texting, no emailing and no phone calls were returned. … This is becoming very damaging to my reputation. It’s affecting my personal life [and] my family because of the financial burden. I was supposed to get income from that.”

Fiore said he worked on the plans for the building for a year before the construction applications were filed. 

“I was under budget and ahead of schedule,” Fiore said. “If construction had not stopped, I would have been on track for completion by December.”

If they were not serious about the building, Fiore said, he could have spent his time on more viable projects.

“The burden they put on me, on my reputation with subcontractors – I feel violated that they treated me with silence,” Fiore said. “It’s affecting my business reputation with the subcontractors. There was no reason for them to treat me the way they did.”

Meanwhile, a Generation Rescue official has disavowed any major association with the St. Charles project, while the contractor’s attorney said he wants to determine what, if any, legal responsibility the charity has. The project was run by The Goodfellows LLC, an Illinois company whose officers include some key officials with Generation Rescue, records show.

The charity’s denials contradict earlier public statements attributed to the organization and the fact that Generation Rescue’s name appears on many documents associated with the project filed with the city of St. Charles. 

Donor’s offer of $1 million not answered by charity

Generation Rescue’s website says it is “dedicated to recovery for children with autism spectrum disorders by providing guidance and support for medical treatment to directly improve the child’s quality of life for all families in need.”

It claims to have provided assistance to 745 families in 50 states with medical grants of $1.8 million.

Although its website also encourages supporters to host their own fundraisers for Generation Rescue, the charity seems to be ignoring an offer from longtime donor Patrick Joyce, owner of Summer Winds Resorts in Missouri. 

Joyce said he committed $1 million in June to build a clinic in Missouri for Generation Rescue – an offered donation noted in a June 22 news release attributed to the charity.

The Summer Winds website features a video sent by McCarthy thanking Joyce – and blowing him kisses of gratitude – for sponsoring the fifth annual Rock the Spectrum event in 2016, held at Branson Landing in Missouri. The Summer Winds website also notes a $25,000 donation from Joyce to Generation Rescue.

But Joyce said he has not had a response in more than four months from Generation Rescue in order to solidify plans for a clinic. So Joyce said he is moving on to partner with a hospital to build an autism diagnostic and treatment center where he lives in Branson, Missouri.

“I have a child who is autistic,” Joyce said. “He is making tremendous progress. … But there are no therapists in Branson and almost none in Springfield.”

McCarthy and Wahlberg did not respond to an email sent to Generation Rescue Executive Director Candace McDonald seeking comment regarding Joyce’s statements about his $1 million commitment, nor did they respond to a phone message left at the charity.

Suing to get paid

Fiore filed a lawsuit Sept. 8 against Goodfellows, the company whose representatives signed the construction contract for the project seeking nearly $511,000 he alleged he was owed, according to Kane County court records.

Named as defendants are Samir Patel – who also is a Generation Rescue board member – and Shannon Kenitz, who is part of Goodfellows and signed the construction contract with Patel. Patel is listed as the LLC manager for Goodfellows with the Illinois secretary of state.

Generation Rescue, McCarthy as president of the charity’s board and McDonald are named as respondents in discovery – a legal term that means they can be questioned about their interests in the project, said Fiore’s attorney, William Bochte.

Although Generation Rescue’s connection to the project seems clear enough in news releases and city documents, in a series of emails, McDonald denied the charity’s involvement in the St. Charles project.

“Generation Rescue is not part of The Goodfellows LLC business entity, and Generation Rescue never entered into any agreement with JV Construction,” an email from McDonald said. “Generation Rescue is not a developer/operator of health care facilities. ... ”

When asked why the name Generation Rescue appears in many documents filed with the city of St. Charles, McDonald said in an email that someone else put it there. 

“Someone (not us) made an assumptive decision to include Generation Rescue’s name on the plans as a placeholder,” an email from McDonald said. “At no time did Generation Rescue ask to have our name/brand placed on any drawings, and the architect did not seek our consent to do this.

“Thank you for calling this to our attention. A letter will be sent ... to the city requesting removal of our branding to prevent further confusion.”

St. Charles officials said in an email that the city never received a letter from Generation Rescue about removing its name from the city’s documents.

St. Charles City Administrator Mark Koenen said he did not particularly think of the project as being a Generation Rescue project.

“I probably identified it as a construction project, and local people had an interest in it,” Koenen said. “It was a nice construction project on our east gateway, and we were excited about it.”

Rowena Salas, co-owner of the Hotel Baker in St. Charles, is a Generation Rescue board member. McCarthy and Wahlberg were married there in 2014.

Salas did not return a voicemail seeking comment. 

Same people, another name

Two key players from Generation Rescue – McDonald and Patel – are named on official documents filed with the city of St. Charles for the clinic project.

McDonald’s signature appears on two documents in applications to start the project, although she denied the legitimacy of one of them.

The application for the preliminary plan, filed with the city April 19, lists Goodfellows as the owner of the property and McDonald’s Generation Rescue email address as the contact for Goodfellows.

The filing of the ownership disclosure also lists McDonald – under oath – as the manager of Goodfellows. It also lists Patel as the other member of the partnership. The filing was notarized in California and signed by McDonald on April 19.

McDonald did not respond to an emailed question regarding the notarized document.

But an April 18 letter from Goodfellows to city officials, giving permission for contractor Fiore to be the applicant for the project, indicated that Generation Rescue is involved.

The subject of the letter is listed as Generation Rescue, 157 S. Tyler Road, St. Charles, and it bears McDonald’s signature.

McDonald denied that she signed it.

“Candace McDonald did not sign the letter that purports to bear her signature,” said an email from McDonald – written in the third person.

However, one of McDonald’s emails said that Generation Rescue was involved only “as an unpaid, uncompensated adviser” when it participated in “early visioning meetings to help connect parties together.”

McDonald also said that the inclusion of Generation Rescue’s name might have “misled the community to assume that the clinic was being developed by our organization, which was never the case.”

Liens filed on property 

Kane County Recorder of Deeds records show that Fiore has filed a lien on the property, as have three subcontractors: Conley Steel Inc. of Naperville for $19,798.55; Engstrom Construction of Bartlett for $82,004; and Anthem Excavation and Demolition of Itasca for $21,437.16.

The Kane County Department of Transportation sent a second notification letter to Fiore, dated Oct. 26, warning that if $32,276.59 in impact fees are not paid, it would be referred to the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office for litigation.

Fiore said the county would sue the property owners, not his company, for the impact fees.

Andrew Bratzel – an attorney representing McDonald, McCarthy and Generation Rescue –said he would respond to questions only via court filings.

Eric Miller – an attorney representing Goodfellows, Patel and Kenitz – said he would not comment.

“My No. 1 rule is I don’t try cases in the media,” Miller said. “I find it to be counterproductive.”

SIDEBAR

Attorney: Clinic developer ‘walking away’ from St. Charles project

ST. CHARLES – The personal attorney of a defendant in a building project lawsuit with ties to Jenny McCarthy said the developer is going to walk away from the project – and offered to negotiate a settlement, the plaintiff’s lawyer said.

Contractor JV Construction Enterprises LLC filed a lawsuit in Kane County on Sept. 8 seeking about $511,000 that remains unpaid. The Goodfellows LLC owns the property, with Generation Rescue Board member Samir Patel listed as the LLC manager for Goodfellows with the Illinois secretary of state. Patel is a defendant in the contractor’s lawsuit.

Generation Rescue’s name appears on documents filed with the city of St. Charles; however, in a series of emails, Generation Rescue Executive Director Candace McDonald denied any connection.

JV Construction attorney William Bochte said he rebuffed an overture for a settlement from Sunil Brahmbhatt, Patel’s personal attorney.

“He did not offer anything – he wanted to work something out,” Bochte said. “They were, in fact, walking away from the project and not going to complete it and wanted to settle with us.”

Bochte initially said he would not accept the offer to negotiate a settlement until all of the defendants were served and the court in Kane County has jurisdiction over them.

“At that point in time, I would be willing to discuss settlement with him – not until,” Bochte said. “This all has to be part and parcel of a court order, if we were even going to entertain their offers. Right now, I’m not inclined. They owe my client over half a million dollars, and I am not willing to negotiate.”

Brahmbhatt said he would not comment on what he said to Bochte, citing attorney-client privilege.

In emails, McDonald said that the charity does not develop or operate health care facilities but it participated as an “uncompensated adviser” early on in the project.

“Generation Rescue is not part of The Goodfellows LLC business entity, and Generation Rescue never entered into any agreement with JV Construction,” McDonald’s email said. “Since Generation Rescue did not commission the development or construction of the clinic, it would be untrue to say that we are ‘walking away.’ ”

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