I wrote this week about the political coercion North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays is using, in concert with his legal tool Jason Carter, to force the North Little Rock School District to settle its lawsuit over the gerrymandered tax increment finance district Hays rammed through a compliant City Council in the final minutes of 2008.
Statutory procedure was ignored in Hays' haste to steal school property tax millage from the $25-30 million Enclave apartment complex, just about to go on the tax books to the school district's benefit. He wants to pilfer the money to build a downtown parking deck.
Now I've learned that -- even if Hays compels the School Dsitrict to settle by promising various sorts of financial retribution -- the suit won't be settled.
Greg Hopkins, attorney for people who've filed a paralllel complaint and intervention in the school district lawsuit, says he was not consulted by City Attorney Carter about the settlement and his clients won't settle. They are attorney Sam Hilburn, business magnate Frank Fletcher, Thomas Roy III, who's financial officer for Fletcher companies, and FF Hotel Inc., which owns the downtown Wyndham Hotel.
"It's bad public policy and we will not settle," Hopkins said. "My instructions are to continue to oppose the TIF district and get it dissolved."
Sounds like the game is going to be on in Judge Chris Piazza's court, political pressure or no political pressure.
It is Hopkins' opinion that the city can't start over with a properly drawn downtown TIF district (as opposed to the Hays-Carter gerrymander that strung together non-contiguious property by city street connections) and still capture the taxes on the increase in property value on the Enclave when it was reassessed after completion. He also believes there are constitutional questions about the city's offer to give the school district an equity interest in the parking deck.