Attorneys representing the owner of Lakeview RV Park LLC in a $12 million lawsuit have filed claims stating that both the owner’s state and federal constitutional rights were violated by the actions of the city of Richmond, Ky., rescinding a contract between Lakeview and the city, according to the Richmond Register.
The civil suit, originally filed Oct. 28, 2008, by Lakeview RV Park LLC against the city, city commissioners Mike Brewer, Bill Strong and Robert Blythe, former city commissioner Kay Cosby Jones and former city manager David Evans, seeks damages for the city’s decision to back out of a lease for the Camp Catalpa property.
The city filed a 22-page motion Nov. 17, 2009, claiming the suit should be dismissed because the commissioners are immune from being sued for official decisions.
Charles D. Cole, the attorney representing the city in the case, filed a motion earlier this year seeking to have Madison Circuit Judge Jean C. Logue limit the suit to only concern a breach of contract between Lakeview RV Park LLC and the city, and to have damages in the case limited only to the amounts set forth in the lease.
A hearing Wednesday (March 3) in Madison Circuit Court focused on two counts listed in the complaint stating that the city’s act of rescinding the contract was in “Violation of procedural due process guaranteed by the Kentucky and United States constitutions,” and “Tortious interference with contractual relations.”
The Richmond City Commission did not have the legal authority to rescind the contract, according to Melissa Bork of Greenebaum, Doll & McDonald, the law firm representing Lakeview RV Park LLC.
“They asked in advance of the meeting if they had the authority (to rescind the contract), and the city attorney told them, ‘No,’” Bork said. “It’s the facts of this case that do make it a federal case.”
It is rare that a public official knowingly exceeds their authority, she said.
“They can’t act on behalf of the city when they’re breaking the law,” Bork said.
By doing this, the owners of Lakeview RV Park LLC’s due process rights were violated, she said.
“This is more about holding government officials accountable,” she said.
Logue said she would take both sides’ arguments into consideration before issuing a final ruling in the case regarding the violation of federal and state constitutional rights.
The ruling should come in a “reasonably short time,” she said.
Before the hearing began, Logue disclosed that a sister of Allen D. Grant Jr., who is the principal owner of Lakeview RV Park LLC, is married to one of her distant cousins. She also disclosed that she served as Richmond’s city attorney 11 years ago.
Logue made this information part of the court record in case it was considered to be a conflict of interest to either party’s counsel.
She said she did not feel that these were reasons to recuse herself from the case, and neither party’s legal counsel objected Wednesday to her continuing to be the judge in the case.
The city granted a lease to Lakeview for the Camp Catalpa property in February 2008, but commissioners voted March 25, 2008, to rescind the lease in the face of vocal public opposition.
“When their decision was made at this second meeting when there was community opposition, certainly that shows that they had reason to do that,” Cole said during Wednesday’s court proceedings.
The lease would have given Lakeview RV Park the authority to convert Camp Catalpa into a campground for recreational vehicles for 40 years.
Commissioners Brewer, Jones, Strong and Blythe voted to rescind the lease, while Mayor Connie Lawson, who is not named in the suit, abstained.