Attorney says management of high-rise where fire happened never knew about failed inspections

CHICAGO (CBS) — For days, we have been trying to get in touch with someone in charge of the Harper Square Cooperative.

The Harper Square Cooperative is composed of two high-rise buildings in Kenwood. In the southernmost high-rise at 4850 S. Lake Park Ave.  on Wednesday, one woman died and nine others were injured in a catastrophic fire.

On Friday, CBS 2’s Sabrina Franza spoke to the attorney for the management company.

We told you Wednesday about multiple failed city inspections at the high-rise. On Friday, the Harper Square representative claimed that even though we found those violations using public data, neither he nor his client had any idea they even existed.

“Absolutely – it was new information to me and my client,” said Robert Kahn, speaking on behalf of the Kenwood high-rise.

He claims the failed Chicago Department of Buildings inspections on Dec. 1, Nov. 2, and March 21 of last year were never brought to his client’s attention.

“We couldn’t do anything about it because we had no knowledge about it,” he said.

The latest online inspection records mention the building failed to provide and/or test the fire alarm and evacuation system – something that we are told would not have prevented Wednesday’s fire.

The cause of the fire, according to Chicago Fire Department investigators, was careless use of smoking materials.

Kahn claimed that while was “totally possible” that the building failed the inspection, they couldn’t do anything about it because, he says, they didn’t know.

Franza: “Is there any possibility that somebody else – maybe a member of the co-op – was on site during the failed inspections and knew about this, but you didn’t?”

Kahn: “There’s always that possibility.”

The Department of Buildings stood by their records online – mentioning that the city’s Fire Department also conducts investigations of their own. We are waiting to hear back to find out if they ever notified building management.

In the meantime, the property was served with a citation on Friday. The violations have nothing to do with the fire, but management is set to appear in court on the separate claims on Thursday.

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