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Dogging the deal



A group of taxpayers which refuses to give up the fight plans to continue efforts to keep a controversial land deal from going through (“Down at the fair,” Metro Times, Nov. 14-20, 2001).

The issue centers on a 34-acre parcel of state-owned land adjacent to the Michigan State Fairgrounds. Although valued at more than $20 million, the state entered into a contract to sell the parcel for $6 million to a partnership headed by theater mogul Joe Nederlander. It was all tied to a contract Nederlander had to manage the fairgrounds. That deal ended in disaster, but the land sale proceeded — until attorney George Ward filed a lawsuit on behalf of a small group of taxpayers outraged because public money was being so obviously squandered. So far, though, Ward hasn’t been having much success in court. The initial ruling was that the taxpayers had no legal standing in attempting to block the transaction. That ruling was appealed, but the state Appellate Court has just issued a terse decision upholding it.

Ward, formerly the No. 2 man in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, remains convinced that taxpayers do have the right to challenge the sale. Consequently, he told News Hits Monday, an attempt will be made to take the case to the Michigan Supreme Court. He expects to file the necessary paperwork this week.

“At a time when school budgets are being cut and state services are being cut and people are being laid off, it is outrageous the state is giving away millions of dollars in this deal,” says Ward.

J. Leonard Hyman, attorney for Nederlander, says there’s a reason his client keeps winning in court: The land deal is perfectly legal.

However, the ongoing legal action has effectively halted transfer of the property. Which means that, for the time being at least, the deal is still on hold.

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