Representatives of Mills Family Realty are disputing claims by Warren County and the Warren County Downtown Economic Development Authority that the company used bond funds illegally.
Hitcents Park Plaza, the commercial wrap of the parking garage in Block 6 of the Tax Increment Financing District, has had financial problems for months. Beginning in late February, liens were filed on the property for money allegedly owed to contractors in its construction.
In an interview today, Clinton Mills, CEO of Hitcents and a president of Mills Family Realty, said he is confident that Mills Family Realty didn't spend money for the wrap project illegally.
"We were completely blindsided," he said of the allegations in a complaint for declaratory judgment filed by Warren County and the Warren County Downtown Economic Development Authority.
The complaint, filed Monday, claims bond funds that should have been available for payment of contractors was spent by MFR for expenses other than construction of the wrap. It asks that liens on the property be declared invalid.
“MFR, in breach of its agreements and in violation of state law, used bond funds in the amount of approximately $3,900,000.00 on restaurant equipment, consultants and operations on its own behalf or on behalf of a related corporation, MR Group Inc.,” the complaint states.
Chris Mills, president of Hitcents and vice president of Mills Family Realty, said documents outlining the deal for the commercial wrap "completely support our decision to spend money the way it was spent."
He also said the company isn't responsible for any changes to operating agreements for the wrap development cited by Mayor Bruce Wilkerson in a statement he read at a special called meeting of the Bowling Green City Commission on Monday. Wilkerson said those changes came without notice to the city between the time the agreement was presented to the commission and when it was signed by partners in the deal.
Wilkerson in his statement also said money appeared to have been used illegally.
Clinton Mills said he's still hopeful an agreement can be reached to address problems with the development.
"I guess we're still hopeful for an agreement to be made, it's just complicated because there are so many parties involved and everyone wants something different," he said.
Clinton Mills said that, ultimately, he would like to see a deal negotiated that would allow another party to manage the commercial wrap and allow him and his brother to focus back on their business at the technology company Hitcents. Hitcents, which is owned by Houchens Industries, is a separate company from Mills Family Realty and is a tenant in the wrap development.
Chris Mills said the two want to see the restaurants on the ground level of the wrap open again and be successful. Mariah's and 6-4-3 closed March 2, while three fast-casual restaurants closed last year.
"The reason we did this deal is because we want downtown Bowling Green to be a destination," he said.