Sony Open plans caught in volley of lawsuits
Written by Scott Blake on January 22, 2014
Promoters of the Sony Open pro tennis tournament last week filed a new counter-lawsuit against Bruce Matheson and Miami-Dade County in hopes of having a judge consider it as early as two court hearings set for this week.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Marc Schumacher has scheduled time on Wednesday and Friday this week for Mr. Matheson’s suit to prevent expansion of the Crandon Park Tennis Center on Key Biscayne to better accommodate the annual Sony Open.
The hearings might be decisive as all three parties – Mr. Matheson, the open’s organizers and the county – have filed motions for a judgment.
“There are three pending motions for summary judgment – one by Matheson, one by the county, and one by us related to Matheson’s complaint,” Eugene Stearns, lead attorney for the Sony Open, said Tuesday.
Mr. Matheson said the suit filed last Friday by the open’s organizers is just a ”rehash” of their earlier suit that had been dismissed by Judge Schumacher.
However, Mr. Stearns said the suit includes new information that was not in the original suit, particularly information about Mr. Matheson that challenges his qualifications to have presided over regulation of county-owned Crandon Park through the years, Mr. Stearns said.
Some of Mr. Matheson’s late relatives who were major land owners on Key Biscayne struck a deal with the county more than 70 years ago that provided the county with land that became Crandon Park. Mr. Matheson has said he wants to protect the park from being overrun by commercial interests.
Mr. Stearns said he plans to file a motion to put his new countersuit before Judge Schumacher. He added that when Judge Schumacher dismissed the earlier suit, he noted that the open’s organizers could resubmit their case.
“We know more now than before,” Mr. Stearns said. “It reflects additional information… a lot of it is about Bruce Matheson’s background.”
Mr. Matheson, meanwhile, has described the latest legal strategy against him as a distraction from the central contention of his lawsuit.
He has contended that the November 2012 ballot initiative to expand and improve the tennis center, although approved by more than two-thirds of county voters, was too vague and misleading to allow the public to make an informed choice.
The measure was placed on the ballot with approval of county commissioners and support of the tournament’s organizers.
Although the open’s new suit primarily targets Mr. Matheson, the county also is named, charging the county with “not keeping the facility up to par” as a suitable venue for the tournament, according to Mr. Matheson.
According to Mr. Stearns, four issues should be resolved in court before construction can begin at the tennis center:
νDid the ballot language properly inform voters of the “chief purpose” of the referendum?
νIn approving contracts for development of the tennis center, and the extension of the organizers’ lease and operating agreement with the county, did commissioners last year act within parameters of the approval provided earlier by voters?
νDoes a Crandon Park Master Plan Amendment Committee (on which Mr. Matheson sits) exist with the lawful delegation of power to veto acts of commissioners?
νAre the planned improvements to the tennis center consistent with the public park purposes of the deed of conveyance of the park to the county?