Thursday, November 20, 2014

Legal analysis of O'Donnell Park sale posted on two sites

You can read Atty. William Lynch's analysis sent to Milwaukee County both at today's index on and, updated, on this blog, too.

Here is the intro:
 At  its November 6th meeting, the County Board delayed consideration of the proposed sale until its December 18th meeting by a vote of 14-3.  The Board expressed uncertainty about the County’s role regarding future use of the property by requesting a legal opinion from County Corporation Counsel on that matter.  

They did so with good reason. There is much confusion about the legal consequences of the proposed sale. The big question is whether the public will have any legally enforceable right to public use and enjoyment of O’Donnell Park or any of its facilities. In short, the agreement provides for almost none.  If the County Board approves this sale, O’Donnell Park will no longer be a public park. It will be fully the buyer’s private property.

            The County Executive is proposing sale of the entire park complex--all of its land, structures and facilities. This is a proposed sale, not what some have characterized as a “public-private partnership.” When you sell your house you do not become a partner with the buyer.  After closing, you have no say whatsoever about how the new owner uses the property.

            Unless the County and NM agree to legally binding provisions for a continuing role for the County, the County will have no role in determining O’Donnell Park’s future. The corporation that owns the property and subsequent owners will have the sole right to determine its future use. 

            The proponents of the sale have submitted over 300 pages of materials, but only the “Purchase Agreement” and the three-page “Operation Contract” have legal significance for future use of the property. It is the specific language in them--not the statements, representations or promises made to encourage supervisors to vote for the sale--that will be legally binding. The Purchase Agreement and Operation Contract provide that no representation or agreement “not expressed in this Agreement shall be binding upon the parties…” 

The promises and representations made by NM’s CEO and the County Executive (or their surrogates) will not be enforceable.  For example, there is no wording in the proposed agreement that NM will maintain and enhance O’Donnell Park as a public park, as NM’s CEO asserted in a recent Journal-Sentinel op-ed. 

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