Hammond officials headed to shopping center conference in Las Vegas

2013-05-04T18:30:00Z 2013-05-04T23:01:12Z Hammond officials headed to shopping center conference in Las VegasChelsea Schneider Kirk chelsea.schneider@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | Beleaguered Hammond City Councilmnan Al Salinas will not be among a group of city officials to attend a conference in Las Vegas this month, though he originally intended to go.

Salinas, D-2nd, had signed up to attend The Global Retail Real Estate Convention, Council President Michael Opinker confirmed. However, Opinker, D-5th, said Salinas signed up before he was indicted in U.S. District Court in Hammond.

“With all the stuff going on with him, we didn't think it would be right,” Opinker said.

Salinas filed a plea agreement in April, agreeing to plead guilty to two federal charges. One charge deals with accepting a bribe from the owner of a Munster tree business in exchange for routing some of his district's gaming money to the company. Salinas also agreed to plead guilty to failing to file a federal tax return.

Salinas, who originally pleaded not guilty to the charges, is set to have a change of plea hearing May 13 in federal court.

Salinas did not return a request for comment Thursday.

The convention for the shopping center industry is aimed at providing networking, deal-making and educational opportunities, according to its website.

Opinker, along with council members Janet Venecz, D-at large, Mark Kalwinski, D-1st, and Anthony Higgs, D-3rd, will attend.

The council's budget covers council members' hotel, airfare and food costs, council Secretary Debbie Jimenez said. About $3,870 already has been allocated to cover convention costs out of this year's budget, Jimenez said.

“It's about basically bringing development into the city and different companies out there to build malls ... the Woodmar deal pretty much is going nowhere, so that's something we are possibly looking in to,” Opinker said.

At least three employees of the Hammond Department of Planning and Development and several Hammond Redevelopment Commission members also will attend.

Venecz said the conference deals with global real estate and opportunities that could potentially be available for the city.

“One of the items that struck me on the agenda was it says mixed use and the new urban footprint. Well, Hammond certainly falls into that category,” Venecz said. “It would be very interesting to see their perspectives on that.”

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