Company poised to build casino buys insurance through Syverson’s agency

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Executives at a construction company and an insurance agency invested in the Hard Rock casino project that Syverson aggressively supported

ROCKFORD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Records filed at the Illinois Secretary of State’s office reveal direct financial links between state Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) and an insurance company that does business with the general contractor who won the city’s approval to build the proposed Hard Rock casino project.

Syverson lists Williams-Manny Insurance on his statement of economic interest. As a broker for Williams-Manny, Syverson shares an office building in Rockford with Tim Knauf, who runs the insurance firm for Gallagher as its Senior Vice President. Knauf was an owner at Williams-Manny before the company was acquired by Gallagher in 2017. Knauf now operates the Rockford office, and is invested directly in the Hard Rock casino project.

Reached by phone on Monday, Knauf’s assistant said he was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Williams-Manny provides insurance for Ringland-Johnson Construction. Ian Linnabary, an attorney for the Hard Rock investor group, said last week in a phone interview that Ringland-Johnson Construction, “will be the General Contractor if the license is awarded.”

The Illinois Gaming Board is currently reviewing the Hard Rock application. It remains unclear if Williams-Manny will insure the casino construction project. The business relationship that links Syverson’s insurance agency to the construction company has not previously been reported. Elected officials or employees of the City of Rockford are prohibited from receiving compensation from a company that does business with the casino under state law.

Brent Johnson, owner of Ringland-Johnson, is also invested in the casino, and is one of Syverson’s most generous campaign donors.

Syverson, a 26-year veteran legislator who has not faced a general election challenge since 2010, is the longest serving Republican in the state Senate.

Syverson, who has grown frustrated with questions about his role in actively opposing two groups that competed against the Hard Rock bid, insists he did nothing illegal. In a phone call on Monday, Syverson said, “Now, you’ll do some story about, ‘Oh, he’s an affiliate with one of the guys who is one of the owners and he does work through them.’ Yeah, so? So I do? What’s the issue?”

Syverson was the point person for Senate Republicans in crafting the gaming expansion, and when he returned to Rockford after the legislative session ended, he mounted an aggressive public campaign to support the Hard Rock proposal over the other applicants. At no time during that process did Syverson publicly disclose the client relationship between Williams-Manny Insurance and Ringland-Johnson Construction.

When asked if he helped to facilitate Ringland-Johnson’s insurance with Williams-Manny, Syverson retorted, “Why don’t you find out yourself?” before he hung up the phone.

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