City’s counsel agreement is a wise decisionPublished 12:16am Sunday, January 22, 2012
Sitting in the audience at the City Council Chambers on Thursday afternoon, my mind wandered off into space.
To be more precise, scenes from the 1983 film, “The Right Stuff,” filled my head.
The epic film tells the story of the early days NASA and the Mercury space program.
It’s a classic film in my book, and provided a temporary resting stop for my mind as several citizens took the microphone and pleaded with the Natchez Board of Aldermen.
As my brain reentered the atmosphere of the room, I wondered to myself if Natchez’s leadership team had “the right stuff” and then wondered if any of them had ever watched the film.
As citizens pointed out the nuances of a proposed lease amendment submitted by Roth Hill casino developers, a scene in the film flashed into my head.
In the scene, one of America’s rocket scientists, says, “Our Germans are better than their Germans,” referring to German rocket scientists who were on the cutting edge of both the American and Russian space programs.
Looking across the room, I wondered, “Are our attorneys better than their attorneys?”
My quick conclusion was: No. We are out lawyered.
We’ve all been in a conversation or a situation in which we’re in vastly over our heads.
That’s where the City of Natchez is with the Roth Hill casino developers.
It’s unfortunate that the global economy changed shortly after the original lease-option was signed in 2007. It’s unfortunate that the developers’ plans have lingered on so long.
It’s unfortunate that the original developers — the ones city aldermen chose because they had “money in the bank” — apparently are not in the picture anymore.
All of that may be aggravating to some city leaders — particularly those hoping to show real progress in their last term before the upcoming elections.
But the delays and changes do not mean the City should acquiesce to any request.
Fortunately, aldermen ultimately realized they needed more help — more expert legal advice — and voted to seek additional counsel. Aldermen deserve credit for listening carefully to the public and admitting they don’t know everything.
Hopefully, the City will hire someone who will work in the best interests of the city’s long-term future.
While they’re at it, I hope the City will consider whether the original lease-option agreement was ever properly consummated into a binding lease.
Several people familiar with the situation feel a good attorney could successfully argue the lease is not valid. If so, perhaps it would be in the City’s best interest to stop construction, nullify the current lease and start over with one that makes better sense for all.
As proposed, the amendments to the lease put much of what the city had in hand, now in jeopardy.
Legally, in such documents, the addition of small words and phrases can make a big difference.
For example in the proposed amendment’s section 3.6, the addition of an “if any” would seem to provide a perfect “out” from developers having to pay up to $300,000 for completion of the Trails Project. In the same section, the addition of “and/or overflow parking” indicates the original plans for a park and botanical gardens may become a parking lot.
Those are just two indications that their attorneys are better than our attorneys, which of course, leads to the question: Is the deal mutually beneficial to both sides, or is one being “played?”
Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.