By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — City council members on Tuesday met in closed session to discuss legal strategies for an expected lawsuit involving phase one of the Riverlife Village development.
Little is known about the expected litigation, as council members are prohibited from disclosing matters discussed in closed session to protect attorney-client privilege. No official action was taken after the meeting.
Riverlife Village has been closely scrutinized in recent months amid a flurry of changes in plans and financing partners. Construction, which had been underway, appears to have stalled even as plans to add two additional space to one of the buildings is in motion. The project includes incentives of about $2.74 million in grants and loans to support the developer and $2.27 million in infrastructure costs to support the entire riverfront development, all of which will come through tax increment district financing.
To date, no lawsuits have yet been filed involving Riverlife itself. But court records show Frantz is named in three open civil cases in Brown County Circuit Court, all of which are connected to his role in the troubled Hotel Northland project in Green Bay. Frantz’s Walworth County home was also in foreclosure, but that case was dismissed March 1.
In November 2016 in Illinois, Frantz was sued for breach of contract in federal court by two former business partners, Gregory and Carol Hammann, who tried to recoup nearly $4 million Frantz owed after allegedly failing to repay a promissory note. The couple claims that Frantz paid only $120,000 of the balance, money which was allegedly part of a real estate investment. The lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality.
One month after the lawsuit was filed, Frantz formed a new LLC, Frantz Community Investors, and signed with the city to develop the Riverlife Village.
Since the original agreement was signed, the players have changed several times. One partner — Barker Financial — withdrew from the project in January and was replaced by Quantum Ventures, a new LLC formed in South Dakota.
On March 13, former Quantum Ventures CEO Jason Sharkey pulled out of the project after a Wausau Pilot and Review investigation that revealed Sharkey’s role in a 2006 real estate Ponzi scheme in Denver, for which Sharkey is continuing to pay restitution after a two-year diverted sentence. Days later, the state Department of Revenue filed a delinquent tax warrant in Milwaukee County Circuit Court against Sharkey for unpaid income taxes of $32,374, according to court records.
Then on March 27, Frantz introduced a new co-developer and financing partner, Rainy Investments, LLC, to join the project. The announcement spurred optimism among some city council members who remain hopeful that Frantz will succeed in securing financial backing for the project.