ROCK HILL, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — York County filed a lawsuit Thursday against several of David Tepper’s companies and the City of Rock Hill over the “failed” Panthers training facility.
The lawsuit alleges that Appaloosa Management, LP, Tepper Sports Holding, Inc., and DT Sports Holding, LLC, the companies the document refers to as the “Tepper Defendants” misappropriated $21 million of public funds meant for the expansion of a roadway in the county.
The lawsuit claims that the Tepper Defendants instead “improperly” used the funds on their “failed vanity project, the Carolina Panthers’ headquarters and practice facility.”
The county said that rather than cover the project’s budget themselves, “the Tepper Defendants took money from York County and its taxpayers.”
The lawsuit also said the City of Rock Hill failed to issue the required bonds and the project collapsed.
“Both the City and the Tepper Defendants have harmed York County and its taxpayers, and the county should be made whole,” the complaint stated.
After GT Real Estate Holdings, David Tepper’s real estate company, filed for bankruptcy last week, York County officials said the county expected to be reimbursed the $21 million it contributed toward upgrading a section of Mt. Gallant Road that borders the site of the project.
“York County contributed $21 million toward the Mt. Gallant project,” officials said last Thursday. “We believe those funds will be returned in full with interest, and County taxpayers are protected. We were prepared for this action, and fully expect a positive outcome for our citizens.”
The lawsuit accused the Tepper Defendants of civil conspiracy and negligence over the misappropriation of the $21 million obtained from the Penny Tax Fund under the pretense of constructing and expanding Mt. Gallant Road.
It also accused the City of Rock Hill of breach of contract for failing to issue bonds in the amount of $225 million to fund the project.
York County is requesting the full repayment of the $21 million and pre and post-judgment interest. The lawsuit also asked for compensation for lost tax revenue and economic benefits.
In an interview Friday with Queen City News, York County Councilman William “Bump” Roddey that the county had worked with both the City of Rock Hill and Tepper Sports and Entertainment on trying to salvage the deal after issues arose. However, he noted the back and forth between both sides led to a “strain on the relationships.”
“The water is really muddy down at the bottom, and this is where we’re at,” Roddey said. “We’re at the lowest point in this agreement. We’ve tried for over three years to make this deal happen, and we were well on our way.”
On Thursday, Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys addressed how the project ended and the future of the site.
“The Panthers, the owner filed bankruptcy in order not to pay the general contractor that they got to come to this area,” said Gettys. “Which—it is what it is.”
Rock Hill officials called the county’s lawsuit “frivolous,” saying that the City had not breached any contract involving the Panthers’ project.
“Time will reveal that this lawsuit was a colossal waste of public money,” the city’s statement said.
Read the full statement from the City of Rock Hill below:
The County has needlessly and recklessly commenced a frivolous lawsuit against the City. Time will reveal that this lawsuit was a colossal waste of public money. We reiterate the City has not breached any contract involving the Panther’s project and remains eager to present the facts in any forum against any party desiring an adversarial posture with the City.
The County’s current lawsuit is both unfortunate and baseless. The City certainly did not cause the County to turn over $21 million to the Panthers to complete a Pennies for Progress project. The City has offered to work side-by-side with the County to protect the interests of our citizens. The City has previously offered to conference with the County’s lawyers and provide the factual foundation showing the City is not in breach of any agreement. That the County commenced this lawsuit against the City without carefully examining these facts is disturbing and revealing as to the County’s priorities and agenda. Every City resident is a County taxpayer. We feel strongly that the City and County should be working arm-in-arm to ensure that the taxpayers in the City and County are best protected. Apparently, a majority of the York County Council do not agree, which is regrettable.
As communicated previously, the City will not litigate any legal dispute through back-and-forth media exchanges and will have no further comment on this matter.
A Tepper Sports and Entertainment spokesperson declined to comment.