Cobb County settles multi-million dollar legal dispute with the Braves

Source: WGCL

Cobb County Commissioner have agreed to settle a money dispute with the Atlanta Braves over the new SunTrust Park.

The 4-1 vote comes after a contentious meeting with the Cobb County Commissioners Tuesday morning, during which two commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Lisa Cupid voiced concerns over transparency.

In the settlement agreement, The Atlanta Braves agreed to pay Cobb County $1.486 million of a system development fee that pertains to water and sewage capacity at SunTrust Park.

Cobb County will reimburse the Braves for project management costs. Ultimately, The Braves will pay Cobb County more than $1.36 million.

Before the discussion began one Cobb County resident indicated the board he hoped this would be the end of the growing financial commitments to the stadium.

“I can remember a number of times the chairman of the board saying to us that there is a cap of public money go into this deal. It seems as though that has been punctured; so, it seems spillage seems to continue to come out,” the taxpayer told commissioners during the public comment portion of the meeting. “I hope that as you deliberate today that you hold the line and not one penny more. Not one penny more,” he went on.

The dispute started in May when The Cobb County Board of Commissioners sent the ball club a demand letter asking for more than $1.4 million a System Development Fee for the stadium, which the county code requires. The Braves sent a counterdemand claiming the county actually owed them more than $4.6 million.

Commissioner Lisa Cupid asked that the vote be tabled because the committee had not seen the payments or the settlement itself.

“I am seeing the settlement agenda item, and I have no seen the settlement,” Cupid said. “We have not read the settlement. That has not been put before us, at least not every commissioner so why am I voting on this? No, I will not recess to look at this,” she said as Boyce recommended taking recess to review payment slips and settlement drafts.

Cupid voted against funding the stadium five years ago.

“I move that we table this until the evening meeting so that commissioners have enough time to look at all documentation substantiating this settlement inclusive of the settlement documentation itself,” Cupid said in the meeting.

Her efforts failed. Cupid was the only dissenting vote.

“When you have that kind of a process where it’s abbreviated, and you feel like something is being jammed down your throat, there is a resentment factor that may never go away. I understand that,” Boyce told CBS46 after the meeting adjourned. “But, there also comes a time when you have to move forward. So what I’ve been trying to do since I came to office is take these lose ends that were there when I came into office.”

Boyce continued,” They say we owed them 5.3 million. We got a check for 1.4 million, right. None of that came out in the wash. I think both of us are happy with it.”

The county will pay the Braves $500,000 in two different installments, in October of 2018 and October of 2019. The Braves will credit the county $380,000 for the bridge signage and maintenance agreement.

These settlements come in addition to the fees the county already owes for the stadium. This agreement will settle the request in the demand letters.

Cupid said she would have liked Braves officials to have been present to confirm this will not happen again.

“We had a settlement agreement that we voted on today and who wasn't here? The Braves organization,” Cupid said. “It would've been great to ask them today as we had the settle agreement, ‘does this settle any outstanding concerns or issues you have?’”

Birrell recommended that the commission appoint the county manager and the county attorney as representatives to the Braves and that no future decisions be made without board approval. Copy of today’s Settlement Agenda Item Copy of the agreement to pay a project consultant (relating to the county’s reimbursement for project management costs) Copyright 2018 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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