One reputation the Village of Robbins hasn’t been able to shake over the decades is the perception of corruption coming from inside Village Hall. Whether we are talking a corrupt police department from the top down or even the more recent corrupt limestone quarry deal that was eventually halted by Sheriff Tom Dart’s office, there is no denying government officials and employees have done a severe disservice to those who live and work in Robbins.
So who should end up being responsible for the improper, and on some levels, illegal actions taken by Cook County Correctional Officer, Nakeea Sherrell Buchanan-Smith?
First, The Chicago Tribune reported on November 21, 2018 that the Village of Robbins was willing to work with Nakeea Sherrell Buchanan-Smith, despite the Village suspending her business license for Manny’s Blue Room.
From the Tribune article, “The bar’s owners, Luxury US, Inc., must provide the village with all necessary ownership documents; obtain a valid state liquor license; and develop security and operational plans to be reviewed and approved by the Robbins police chief before it can reopen, the board agreed.
Robert McLaughlin, an attorney for the bar’s owners, said he considered the conditions ‘fair and reasonable,’ and something he could work on with the village.”
Ummm…that’s gonna be a problem. Well, an even bigger problem that it already is–even though no one is talking about it–yet.
First, it is important for me to make note that documentation surrounding Buchanan-Smith puts on display numerous variations to her name. For example, forms from Cook County in 2003 and 2007 clearly show the spelling to be “Nakeea,” while state records show her first name to be “Nakeeh.” Nothing like a Scrivener’s Error on official documentation, right? Don’t mind me. It’s a secretarial bias of mine.
Now, according to state and local records, Buchanan-Smith is the owner of Luxury US, Inc. the company that reportedly owns the nightclub Manny’s Blue Room in Robbins, Illinois. Luxury US, Inc. was registered with the Secretary of State on July 7, 2017, even though it appears that Luxury US, Inc. didn’t get a business license from the Village of Robbins until July 2018. This is going to matter in a bit, so stay with me.
Let’s go back first to 2003 when Buchanan-Smith was just Buchanan and first employed by Cook County. The County has very clear rules about a correctional officer having secondary employment. It’s under “Rule 13: Dual Employment.” The basic jist of the rule is that someone wanting to hold down a second job (including self-employment), must complete a “Report of Dual Employment Form” and have this second job approved by two people (among other rules).
She signed a document on March 10, 2003 called “Conditions of Employment” in which Condition #6 reads, “…and that there are limits to my having secondary employment to no more than twenty hours per week. Prior to working secondary employment, a secondary employment form must be obtained from personnel, filled out properly, and approved by the Superintendent or Unit Supervisor, and the Executive Director. If I have secondary employment that involves carrying a gun or any type of security work, an indemnity form must be signed by the employer and submitted with the secondary form. Failure to follow these procedures could result in suspension and/or termination. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES WILL A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER BE ALLOWED TO WORK IN AN ESTABLISHMENT THAT SELLS LIQUOR.” (caps, bolding and italics here is the same as on the form shown below.)
Here’s where Buchanan-Smith’s “work” history gets a little…ummm…twisted.
According to a report from the City of Chicago, it shows that Buchanan-Smith had an active business license (license # 2108992) with the City of Chicago for “Luxury Life Studio” located at 2557 West 63rd Street, Unit 1 from August 1, 2011 to August 15, 2013. This is in the 16th Ward, where JoAnn Thompson was Alderman from 2007 through 2015, when she passed away due to sudden heart failure (it was an election cycle, btw). Toni Foulkes is the current Alderman (it’s an election cycle for her, btw). Buchanan-Smith is shown as the sole proprietor of Luxury Life Studio.
The INSTANT Buchanan-Smith registered herself with the City of Chicago as the sole proprietor of a business in 2011, she was obligated to already have secured permission by a Supervisor AND the Executive Director.
According to Cook County records, she never received permission to own and operate Luxury Life Studio.
In fact, she apparently never even filed the Dual Employment form.
In fact, according to Cook County records, she never received permission to own and operate Luxury US, Inc. either.
In fact, she apparently never even filed the Dual Employment form.
In fact, according to records with the State of Illinois Gaming Board, Luxury US, Inc., nor Buchanan-Smith as an individual never filed an application to have slot machines in Manny’s Blue Room.
Yup. Photos of Manny’s Blue Room after the shooting of security guard Jemel Roberson November 11, 2018 clearly show advertisements for slots at the establishment.
Now, to keep this clear, Accel Entertainment lays claim to having gambling terminals in Manny’s Blue Room at least in March of 2018, when The New Blue Room Corporation apparently owned and operated Manny’s.
And yet Luxury US, Inc., doesn’t even have a license pending, so why would the establishment be advertising having slots in November 2018 and from whom would they have gotten the machines from? (answers still pending)
But wait! There’s more! (I feel like a late night infomercial!)
According to the Illinois Gaming Board website, the previous owners of Manny’s Blue Room, The New Blue Room Corporation, not only still had a gaming license after Luxury US, Inc. took over the location in July, they were reporting revenues received during July, August and September AND the terminal count went up by 1 machine between July and August 2018, which was around the time Luxury US, Inc. took over the location of Manny’s Blue Room!
Extra weird is that it appears The New Blue Room Corporation had 5 terminals EXCEPT for July 2018, when it dropped to 4 for one month.
And there’s the grand-slam right down the throats of the good people of Robbins.
Not only was Buchanan-Smith allowing liquor to be sold without a valid liquor license…and without permission from her employer (Cook County)…
It appears as though illegal gambling was being allowed in her establishment as well, something the Illinois Gaming Board will need to thoroughly investigate.
Part of this particular problem is definitely on the shoulders of the Village of Robbins for not making sure the gaming license situation was in compliance with State law before and after issuing a business license.
Make no mistake. The death of Jemel Roberson in November 2018 is a tragedy no matter what determinations are made about Nakeea Sherrell Buchanan-Smith’s ownership and operation of Manny’s Blue Room.
But the bottom line is that Buchanan-Smith doesn’t deserve a second chance to “get it right” when it comes to Manny’s Blue Room in Robbins, Illinois. Her blatant violation of Cook County rules with her first business venture, Luxury Life Studio from 2011 to 2013, let alone with Luxury US, Inc. starting in 2017 are bad enough and are reasonable grounds for termination from her job as a Cook County Correctional Officer.
So while the Village of Robbins appears “willing” to work with Buchanan-Smith to keep her as the owner of Manny’s Blue Room, hopefully the people of Robbins will recognize the corrupt behaviors she brought into their backyard and will remain strong enough to hold out for a new owner of the location that will bend over backwards to properly follow the laws…
For everyone’s safety and security…
Let alone for the entertainment purposes of a nightclub in the first place.
And the first place this level of protection needs to come from is the Trustees of the Village of Robbins, who need to continue to deny a business license and a liquor license to Nakeea Sherrell Buchanan-Smith no matter what she “fixes”–even if/when she is fired from her job with the County.
P.S. I won’t even begin to squabble over the ban on a correctional officer working “in” an establishment that sells liquor.