This article originally appeared in The Daily Record on Monday, June 26th.
State Center attorneys seek to compel Maryland to hand over documents
By Adam Bednar
A hearing is set for Monday in Baltimore City Circuit Court to consider the validity of a motion by the attorneys for the beleaguered State Center project’s developer to force the state to hand over documents regarding the decision to cancel leases at the proposed development.
State Center LLC’s attorneys filed a motion to compel the state to comply with written discovery requests in an ongoing lawsuit between the state and the developer. In a reply filed with the court, the developer’s attorneys argue the state’s refusal to hand over the documents is based on “meritless objections” that are “wasting everyone’s time.”
“This is obviously a crucial and important issue for us and the people who have been waiting for this project, but I think it’s also a crucially important question about whether we govern in darkness or we govern in transparency,” said Michael Edney, an attorney for the developer.
Attorneys for the developer also tried to obtain the documents via the state’s Public Information Act. Those attempts were also rebuffed, and in April Edney expressed frustration with the state and accused Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration of ignoring the statute and “governing in darkness.”
In an email, Douglass Mayer, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, disputed the claim that officials have not responded to the developer’s requests for documents. Despite the volume of documents requested, according to Mayer, the state has offered to produce the documents but State Center LLC’s attorneys did not respond to that offer.
“As you probably know, requesting voluminous documents during a court case is a run-of-the-mill tactic designed to drive up costs and generally waste the other party’s time,” Mayer wrote.
The legal battle stems from a decision by the Board of Public Works in December to terminate state leases for the proposed $1.5 billion project, essentially killing the development. Following the board’s decision Hogan ordered the Maryland Stadium Authority to fast-track a study considering the site as a possibility for a new arena.
That decision came after months of failed mediation efforts to reach an agreement between the state and developer that would’ve allowed the long-delayed development to break ground.
The proposed redevelopment of State Center dates back to the administration of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. But the project was delayed for years by a lawsuit challenging the procurement process that the state used to select a developer.
In 2014 the Court of Appeals ruled that the plaintiffs, who were backed by Peter Angelos, waited too long to challenge the procurement process.
Since the latest dispute between the developer and the Hogan administration landed in court, State Center LLC has waged an aggressive campaign to generate public support for moving ahead with the project. The developer’s efforts include running radio ads accusing the Hogan administration of “waging war on Baltimore.”
In response, the Hogan administration has painted state center as money-hungry developers out to make as much money off the state’s taxpayers as humanly possible.