Aberdeen to vote on $150,000 to defend Ripken Stadium lawsuit

No one from the public had a comment Monday night on the proposal to allocate money for the City of Aberdeen to defend a lawsuit filed against it by baseball great Cal Ripken Jr. and his baseball company over their contractual relationship for the city-owned Ripken Stadium.

The city is proposing to transfer $150,000 from its general fund balance to the Ripken Stadium fund for legal fees associated with the lawsuit.

The funding will “pay for our first guess at what legal expenses will be for the pending litigation that the city is undergoing,” Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady said during Monday night’s City Council meeting.

Ripken’s company, Tufton Professional Baseball LLC, filed suit against the city on Oct. 10, claiming Aberdeen breached its contract over management of non-baseball events at Ripken Stadium, home of the Single A, short season Aberdeen IronBirds.

The budget transfer amendment was introduced at the Nov. 5 City Council meeting. Councilman Tim Lindecamp voted against its introduction, saying the city won’t get a return for its money by engaging in the litigation.

The council is poised to vote on the budget transfer at its next meeting, Dec. 10.

When the funding amendment was introduced, McGrady said the city would continue to use its city attorney, Fred Sussman, as the lawsuit moves forward.

“He has been with the city for five years and has been instrumental in our discussions and negotiations with Tufton Professional Baseball,” McGrady said at the time. “Fred will continue to be integral to any legal strategy the city decides to pursue.”

Sussman is a director in the Annapolis law firm Council, Baradel, Kosmerl & Nolan, P.A.

The city is in the process of developing its response to the suit filed by Tufton, McGrady said Monday night.

Aberdeen had been given an extension to the 30-day deadline to file its response, he said. The mayor did not return a phone call Tuesday seeking additional comment.

A “stipulation of extension of time” was entered Nov. 19 in the online court record.

In the suit, Tufton claims that once the city recouped its initial investment of $3 million, plus debt service on the stadium, management of non-baseball events would revert to Tufton, except for 15 days each year allocated to the city, according to an agreement the city and Tufton signed in late 2000 as the stadium project was getting underway.

Until that threshold was met, the city had authority to manage non-baseball events, except for 15 days allocated annually to Tufton although the city deferred that authority to Tufton, which had been managing most non-baseball events anyway until nearly a year ago.

In 2017, Aberdeen declined to renew a license agreement with Tufton for city events after Tufton refused to renegotiate the Concession Agreement, the lawsuit claims.

Tufton also claims the city has failed to complete major capital projects at the stadium that is beginning to jeopardize the safety of players on the Aberdeen IronBirds minor league baseball team, which plays at the stadium, and guests.

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