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David Pendered

Atlanta’s funding for Falcon stadium delayed at least seven weeks by judge

By David Pendered

A seven-week delay in Atlanta’s schedule sell bonds to help pay for construction of the Falcons stadium was the immediate result of a court hearing Monday morning.

Lawyers for opponents of Atlanta's plan to sell bonds for the Falcons stadium talk with reporters after a court hearing: John Woodham (center, left) Thelma Wyatt Moore (center, right). Credit: David Pendered

Lawyers for opponents of Atlanta’s plan to sell bonds for the Falcons stadium talk with reporters after a court hearing: John Woodham (center, left) Thelma Wyatt Moore (center, right). Credit: David Pendered

Bond validation petitions typically are open-and-shut matters. Lawyers for the government usually get a speedy ruling from a judge that allows the sale of bonds to proceed posthaste.

In the case of Atlanta’s bonds for the stadium, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Granville set the next date for a bond validation hearing for April 10. In the meantime, opponents of the bond issuance can begin gathering at least some of the evidence they intend to use to try to prevent the city from issuing $278.3 million in bonds to help finance the stadium.

Lawyers representing the bond issuance indicated the delay does not represent a significant hurdle.

The hearing Monday was late getting started, beginning around 9:45 a.m. rather than the 8:30 a.m. time listed in a court paper.

At the end of the proceeding, Granville sided with opponents of the bond issue. They contend that they need time to develop their case showing why the use of Atlanta’s hotel/motel tax to help finance the stadium’s construction is not in the city’s best interests.

Granville gave the opponents seven weeks to develop their case. The judge indicated he would rule before April 10 on any motions they may file concerning the evidence they seek. Until Monday, the opponents had no legal standing to compel any person or entity to produce evidence.

By Granville’s offer to rule on discovery motions during the interim, the judge said the opponents would be positioned to present their case on April 10.

Lawyers for the two sides sparred intermittently over a variety of legal issues in a hearing that lasted about 45 minutes. Some issues may appear to be minor, but could become significant if the case is appealed beyond Granville’s courtroom. John Woodham, a lawyer for the opponents, said he wanted to ensure that there would be no question about the legal foundations of points he would raise.

The city’s attorneys took the position that their side should present their arguments in favor of the sale of the bonds. They agreed not to object to the intervention of five Atlanta residents who hope to block the bond sale. Doug Selby, who represents the bond sale, contended his side should be permitted present their case while the issues raised by the intervenors grind through the legal process.

The lawyers for five intervenors took the position that any such arguments are premature until they have time to develop and present their case against the bond validation.

The entire process of winning legal approval to sell the bonds started fairly quickly.

The petition that seeks authorization for Atlanta to sell the bonds was submitted Feb. 4. Granville issued a ruling that same day, setting the bond validation hearing for Monday at 8:30 a.m. The general public can enter the courthouse no earlier than 8:30 a.m.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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