Attorney Says Black Creek Group To Make Money Off TIF Bonds Interest; Chancellor Won't Let City, County Out Of Sharp Lawsuit

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Attorney John Konvalinka said Thursday that the purchasers of a controversial $9 million Tax Increment Financing (TIF) bond issue were the same group developing the project at Black Creek in Lookout Valley.

He also said that the developers stand to make money on interest on the bonds.

And he said the road project will be constructed by a member of the group. Those involved in the project to develop a large tract on the top of Aetna Mountain include businessman Gary Chazen as well as Doug Stein, who has Stein Construction Company.

Attorney Konvalinka said if the lawsuit brought by citizen Helen Burns Sharp goes to trial next Tuesday he will show that "it won't cost $9 million to build that road." But he said the way the deal is set up the road builder "can charge what he wants."

Chancellor Frank Brown, also expressing concerns about the way the TIF came about through the city's Industrial Development Board (IDB), declined to grant the city and county a summary judgment. He also declined to remand the case to the IDB and he declined to grant the city and county an immediate appeal.

He urged the parties to try to come to some sort of agreement.

But attorney Konvalinka said Ms. Sharp, a former planner who believes the first local TIF did not meet state requirements, wants a trial.

Assistant City Attorney Phil Noblett and County Attorney Rheubin Taylor denied that the city and county had acted illegally, as the plaintiffs charge. 

Attorney Noblett said the project benefited taxpayers who did not have to pay for a road and sewer line up Aetna Mountain to the planned "small city" .

He said the project was discussed and debated at five different public meetings. 

The bonds were issued, and attorney Konvalinka said "the first draw" included covering a $50,000 payment to attorney George Masterson, who issued an opinion that the TIF was valid. Chancellor Brown earlier this week declined to accept the letter, noting that the attorney was in the employ of the developers.

Attorney Konvalinka said over $162,000 went to the law firm of Miller and Martin for its work on the TIF. Attorney Mike Mallen appeared before the IDB in favor of the request. 

An attorney for the development group said it is the customary practice for bond counsel to be paid by the group seeking the bonds.

But Chancellor Brown said, "Something is fundamentally wrong with the appellant's lawyer being the decision maker."

Attorney Konvalinka said several people who approved the project, including Mayor Ron Littlefield and County Commission Chairman Larry Henry, said they believed the project could not go forward without the TIF.

But attorney Konvalinka said it wound up "that the same people doing the project were the ones buying the bonds. They had the money."

Of the major players on the project, he said, "It's just us girls."

He said documents for the TIF are vague in regard to the project and do not commit the developers to carrying out any of the commercial portion.

He said, when interviewed, attorney Masterson "did not know if the commercial would be on top of the mountain or at the bottom."

Former City Attorney Mike McMahan said when the judge threw out the Masterson opinion letter based on conflict of interest "that threw us a curve ball" and put himself "in a very touchy situation" since he handled the matter for the IDB.

He said the IDB has hired attorney Sam Elliott to advise him on what further steps he should take in the case since he may be called as a witness.

Attorney Konvalinka said of the $50,000 retainer for attorney Masterson that his hourly rate is $450 and he spent far less than the time to reach the $50,000 amount.

Pam Fleenor, who will be taking over the post held by Chancellor Brown soon, sat in on the hearing.

 

 


Sign Up To Get The Latest News, Opinions From Chattanoogan.com In Real Time; Win Set Of Chattanooga Photo Books

Sign up for our Facebook and Twitter feeds and you will get the  local news in "real time." You will also be entered for a chance to win the complete set of the Chattanooga Photo Books published by Chattanoogan.com. We will give away three sets of The Remarkable Stokes Collection, Railroads In and Around Chattanooga and Paul Hiener's Historic Chattanooga to our new Facebook ... (click for more)

Soddy Daisy High School's 1946-47 State Basketball Team Only Lost Twice; Won State Championship

The 1946-47 Soddy-Daisy High School Trojans boys basketball team, one of the greatest high school teams to ever take the hardwood in the state of Tennessee, won the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association state championship that year in convincing fashion.   March 15 marked the 70th anniversary of that event.  This might have been cause for celebration if ... (click for more)

CPS Should Have A Manned 24/7 Presence In Every County

This week something became abundantly clear to me. The Department of Child Protective Services in the state of Tennessee, or at least in Hamilton County, are asleep at the wheel.   Early yesterday afternoon local news stations broke the news: "Animals Removed from Soddy Daisy Home."  What the news station either didn't know, or didn't report, was that the children of ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Heroes Gather On July 14

Oliver North, whose journey as American patriot has not been an easy one, never lost hope. He once admitted he lied to Congress under oath, was found guilty of three felony counts after he followed the direct orders of his superiors, and then endured the wrath of the ignorant before the ACLU – of all sources – had the charges vacated. The former Lt. Colonel in the Marine Corps ... (click for more)

Chattanooga FC Hosts Memphis City FC Wednesday

 What a week it's been for CFC. After starting the season scoring only six goals in eight games, the boys in blue have racked up 12 goals in the last three matches, most recently shutting down FC Carolina United 5-0 this past Saturday.  Chattanooga FC returns to the pitch this Wednesday to take on interstate rival Memphis City FC in a must win game for both teams  ... (click for more)

30 Mocs On Academic All-Southern Conference Team

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga put 30 student-athletes on the 2017 Spring Academic All-Southern Conference Team, the league office announced this week.  Junior women's golfer Megan Woods and sophomore women's tennis player Sydney Patton led the way with perfect 4.0 grade-point-averages.  The spring squad consists of representatives from the following ... (click for more)