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Hall County judges pass on Regions lawsuit

POSTED: March 30, 2009 11:44 p.m.

The first word from the bench on a legal battle between Regions Financial Corp. and a Midtown Gainesville developer is an order declining to hear the lawsuit in which both city and county officials have an interest.

Hall County’s Superior Court judges have recused themselves from the case, a disagreement between the bank and Gainesville City Center over property easements, and are looking to the 9th District’s Administrative Judge Michael C. Clark to appoint a judge to preside over the suit.

In an order filed Friday, Hall County Chief Superior Court Judge Andrew Fuller disqualified himself from presiding over the lawsuit "to avoid any appearance of the absence of impartiality" in the case.

Judges Kathlene Gosselin and Jason Deal also have recused themselves from the proceeding. Judge Bonnie Oliver recused herself from the case in a separate order filed Wednesday.

Regions Financial Corp. filed suit against Gainesville City Center in January, claiming developers violated a 25-year-old easement agreement allowing the bank’s employees to access the Regions Operations Center from Bradford Street.

The developers claim the easement agreement expired. They put up a fence between their development, a planned high-rise hotel and office complex on the site of the old Town View Plaza and the current headquarters for the city police and fire departments, and the Regions Operations Center.

Both county and city officials have an interest in the outcome of the suit.

Two Hall County commissioners, Tom Oliver and Billy Powell, and local attorney Tread Syfan have a contract to purchase the Regions Operations Center. Oliver previously told The Times he would not be interested in buying the property without the easements in question.

City officials are considering an application, filed Monday, to award tax allocation district financing to Gainesville City Center. The city also sold the developers its current public safety facility on Jesse Jewell Parkway for use in the development; Syfan facilitated that sale through his role with the Gainesville-Hall Redevelopment Authority.

Syfan was removed from the Gainesville-Hall Redevelopment Authority after city officials discovered his intentions to purchase the bank property.



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