Gateway files suit over elections center decision
Gateway Retail Center LLC filed suit Monday afternoon against Mayor Alvin Brown and the City, alleging the decision to move an elections center from the Gateway Shopping Center to One Imeson Center violated City ordinance code.
The complaint seeks damages, injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment in connection with the One Imeson lease legislation.
A 2 p.m. Tuesday conference call is scheduled among the City Office of General Counsel, attorneys with Terranova Corp., which owns Gateway, and U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan about the complaint.
At its Aug. 13 meeting, City Council voted 13-6 to move the Supervisor of Elections center to Gateway shortly after denying 12-7 to keep it at Gateway, where it has been since 2006 and costs $51,000 a month in rent.
Both proposals were lauded for saving taxpayers more than half of what the City currently pays over 10 years.
Brown's administration favored Gateway.
The complaint states ordinance code that interests in real property "shall be obtained in the most economical and feasible manner" and the City "acted arbitrarily and capriciously."
It says the City Public Works and Real Estate Division recommended Gateway, but City Council "purposely ignored the recommendation of its real estate experts" when it decided in favor of One Imeson, a statement City Council President Bill Gulliford said "sounds like sour grapes on their part."
"Recommendations by City departments are not binding on us. We can do what we want," he said, noting the claims sounded "frivolous."
Gulliford was one of the 13 Council members in favor of One Imeson.
He said he hoped the complaint was thrown out of court and questioned whether the City should be associated with such a landlord, saying it further enhances Council's decision to move to One Imeson.
The complaint further claims Council members believed the matter in which the City handled the negotiation and approval was "contaminated" and should have used a Request for Proposal pursuant to the City Procurement Code.
It further alleges the City Council "unlawfully" voted to move the center from Gateway in retaliation because "the Gateway Lease allows greater African American participation in the election process whereas the Imeson Lease effectively stifles African American participation" because of location.
U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown during the Aug. 13 meeting said a move to Imeson disenfranchises and oppresses African-American voters. The site also is an early elections voting site and several Council members referenced the perception of a move from Gateway as oppressing the black community.
Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland disagreed with the allegations of the move hurting the black community.
"I have made a commitment to voting in the Gateway community," Holland said Monday.
He said he has identified two potential early voting sites in the Gateway community to keep early voting, in addition to hopes of working out a deal with Terranova Corp., Gateway's landlord.
Holland said if the matter were to move to the courts, he would push for it to be expedited because of the time-sensitivity of the issue. He said he hopes to listen in on the conference call to dispute the allegations.
Brown has until the end of the Council meeting Tuesday to sign the One Imeson legislation, let it become law without his signature or veto it.
His office did not return a call for comment Monday evening.