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As Aberdeen, Ripken negotiate lawsuit, city anticipates spending another $75,000

As Aberdeen, Ripken negotiate lawsuit, city anticipates spending another $75,000
As lawyers for the Ripkens and the city of Aberdeen negotiate a lawsuit and countersuit, city officials anticipate spending another $75,000. (Matt Button / Aegis file)

As the City of Aberdeen anticipates spending another $75,000 in legal fees for the lawsuit and countersuit between the city and the owner of Ripken Stadium and the Aberdeen IronBirds, both sides are seeking time to negotiate.

A budget amendment to transfer $75,000 to the Ripken Stadium fund was introduced Monday at the Aberdeen City Council meeting. A public hearing will be held at the next council meeting, May 20.

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That money would be in addition to $150,000 the council approved in December to spend on the suit.

While a trial date had been set for Feb. 3, 2020, lawyers for both sides — the city and Tufton Baseball — filed a request Tuesday in Harford County Circuit Court for a stay of litigation, which would stop the clock and extend deadlines in the case, according to the documents.

“The city and Tufton have agreed to a 90-day stay to work on some issues related to the litigation,” Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady said Thursday.

Tufton, owned by Aberdeen native Cal Ripken Jr. and Bill Ripken, filed suit against the city Oct. 10 for breach of contract, in that the city failed to fulfill its obligations as outlined in a December 2000 agreement.

The suit claims the city has recouped its initial investment into the stadium project — the debt service on $3 million — per a concession agreement entered into Dec. 7, 2000. Once the city recouped its investment, the lawsuit says, management of the majority of events at the stadium — baseball and non-baseball — becomes the responsibility of Tufton, based upon the original agreement between the two parties.

The suit also claims the City of Aberdeen has not fulfilled its obligations to undertake and pay for capital maintenance and improvements at the stadium, as is also outlined in the concession agreement.

In a countersuit filed by the city Jan. 11, the city is seeking $75,000 in the breach of contract suit as well as a requirement by the court that it complete the required maintenance.

Both sides agreed to a timeline for the case, which included a June 7 deadline for each side to turn over to the other the appropriate documents. A settlement conference had been set for Jan. 10.

“After the commencement of fact discovery, the parties began to engage in discussions in an effort to resolve this litigation. These discussions are ongoing,” the joint motion states. “In order to enable the parties to continue these discussions without unnecessarily expending resources to litigate this case, the parties request that the court stay the litigation for 90 days, commencing on May 1, 2019 and concluding on July 30, 2019.”

Both sides would like to reschedule the potential court dates, as “the parties believe that maintaining dates certain for trial and related hearings will focus any resolution of this litigation,” according to the filing.

During this year’s Maryland General Assembly session, $300,000 was allocated in a bond bill to pay for extension of field netting, field replacement and an LED lighting system replacement at the stadium, “provided that these funds may not be expended until the Maryland Stadium Authority, Tufton (Ripken Baseball), and the City of Aberdeen enter into a memorandum of understanding for the scheduling of the work and expenditure of the funds on the prioritized projects (Harford County).”

It provides another $700,000 for the planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement, and capital equipping to Ripken Stadium, according to the legislation.

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