A lawsuit has been filed against the City of Greer by JBM Leasing LLC challenging the right of the City to make an alleged secret deal for the former Allen Bennett Memorial Hospital campus.
Mayor Rick Danner, City Administrator Ed Driggers and Executive Director of Greer Development Corporation Reno Deaton were also named as defendants.
JBM Leasing is the owner of Nissan of Greer at 14125 E. Wade Hampton Blvd. It is the plaintiff alleging the city is selling the former hospital complex site to an undisclosed purchaser for at least $250,000 less than the property value on the open market.
JBM Leasing was seeking the approximately 10 acres of property “with the hope and intent of bringing in a state-of the-art Nissan dealership, employing approximately 60 to 75 individuals, and bringing substantial tax revenue to the City.”
The request for proposals period expired on Oct. 4 and the lawsuit alleges the City received no responses.
JBM Leasing, according to the lawsuit, began its purchasing efforts with a $1.5 million offer on Oct. 25 that included an economic impact report that the Nissan dealership would have on the city. Driggers reportedly told JBM another offer, that was considered first by council that evening, didn’t include economic development elements or benefits, according to the allegations.
Days after the Oct. 25 meeting, JBM discussed with Driggers an increased offer of $1.8 million and told him there would be another offer made at the next City Council meeting on Nov. 8, according to the lawsuit. JBM claimed it or its representative were told or were aware that another offer, also for $1.8 million, would be made at the council meeting.
Driggers informed JBM the next day that the City Council rejected the company’s offer outright, but instructed Danner to “negotiate with the other buyer,” according to the allegations.
The lawsuit alleges Driggers met with JBM and Deaton and represented to the company that no deal had been made with the other potential buyer, no contract had been signed and that JBM was free to tender another offer at the next meeting, which JBM’s representative confirmed it would do.
Driggers told a JBM representative the “City was no longer interested in economic development or job creation, but in maximizing its financial return. Driggers said the city wanted $2.1 million for the property but probably would not get it, according to the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, JBM offered the $2.1 million the City was seeking and removed all contingencies with the exception of a clear title requirement.
City Council approved Ordinance 34-2016 on Nov. 22, before its executive session, authorizing the City to sell the property, referencing a contract for the sale of property referred to as “Project Forest”. Within hours after the meeting, Deaton notified a JBM representative its offer was rejected in favor of the other alleged buyer who offered the same $2.1 million, according to the lawsuit.
JBM alleges it increased its offer to $2.2 million the next morning, with an additional $150,000 to be donated to the City for public park refurbishment. The company also alleges the named defendants must allow fair competition and must sell to the party that makes the highest and best offer.
JBM is asking for injunctive relief, actual and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and other relief, according to the lawsuit. It is asking for a jury trial.