The Bowling Green City Commission voted Tuesday to approve filing a civil lawsuit regarding the initial development of the downtown parking garage wrap under a previous developer.
By a 4-1 vote, with only Commissioner Brian “Slim” Nash voting no after saying the city would be wasting taxpayer dollars, commissioners approved allowing the Keating Muething & Klekamp law firm of northern Kentucky to file “an action in the appropriate court against named defendants as determined by (the law firm) is in the best interests of the city,” according to the municipal order approved Tuesday.
The particulars of the suit, such as who would be sued and the basis for the action, will now be developed by the law firm, Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said after the meeting. He said he expects that to be “soon.”
Before the vote, Nash said “this is an important issue for the city and taxpayers” but said he doubted “the city can successfully win litigation. There is no question mistakes were made. (but) I do not believe we will prevail in getting money back.”
He said he believes the litigation could cost $185,000 on top of “the $182,000 already spent” and added that the lawsuit would “hamper the progress being made downtown.”
Last month, the commission voted 4-0 to hire the law firm to investigate possible civil claims regarding the garage wrap project then known as Hitcents Park Plaza as it was being developed by Mills Family Realty.
Jim Parsons of Keating Muething & Klekamp said at the time that his firm was tasked with investigating “what claims (the city) might have and how public funds were used.”
The wrap project became mired in lawsuits just months after it opened in 2013 with contractors claiming they were not being paid by Mills Family Realty.
Issues with the project became public in 2015, as contractors filed liens over the unpaid bills, and Mariah’s and 6-4-3 restaurants in the wrap around the downtown parking garage closed their doors.
Then-state Auditor Adam Edelen issued a report in December 2015 that found overspending on the project of $9.7 million, resulting in a $4.5 million deficit.
The audit also concluded there was poor oversight on the project by elected officials and numerous, often contradictory, agreements.
Mills Family Realty was subsequently removed as the developer, and Warren County sold $30 million in bonds to pay off the liens and existing debt and complete unfinished projects in the wrap.
Bowling Green Hot Rods owner Jerry Katzoff successfully took over the development, renamed Stadium Park Plaza, reopened the restaurants and found tenants for much of the remaining vacant space in the building.
Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron said in January 2016 that his office was reviewing Edelen’s findings.
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