The mayor of Inglewood responded with harsh words Tuesday for a company that's suing his city over an effort to lure the Los Angeles Clippers to town in a new arena.
An attorney for Mayor James Butts accompanied him at Tuesday's news conference regarding a lawsuit filed by Madison Square Garden, which owns The Forum in Inglewood. Forum owners claim building another arena violates their contracts with the city, and they say they were misled into surrendering a lease on land now proposed for the new arena.
"We plan to defend the lawsuit vigorously," Inglewood attorney Skip Miller said. "And I look forward to our day in court. Normally a defendant doesn't say that, but I'm saying it here. Bring it on."
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit accuses Butts of deceiving MSG Forum officials, who own the Forum, into surrendering a long-term lease and purchase option for 15 acres of city-owned land used for overflow parking by claiming it was needed for a planned "technology park." But the city instead engaged in secret talks with the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers about a possible new arena "using the very same land MSG Forum had leased for parking," according to the lawsuit.
The Forum was home to the Los Angeles Lakers during the "Showtime" era before the team moved downtown to Staples Center.
MSG officials contend in the suit that the city's negotiations to build a competitive arena violate terms of the Forum's contracts with Inglewood that bar the city from taking any actions that would cause "a material adverse impact on the use, operations, functionality or economic competitiveness of the Forum."
Miller disputed that claim, saying "there's no exclusivity for a concern venue in the city of Inglewood." He referred to the lawsuit as a "sham."
Last year, when Forum officials first raised objections to the Clippers negotiations, Butts said he was confident the parties could resolve their differences.
Butts said he was surprised at the lawsuit, which he called "ridiculous" and "ludicrous." He said he intervened in behalf of the Forum owners when the company fell behind on rent payments on a parking lot controlled by Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who is building a new NFL stadium across the street from the arena.
"I've worked hard to assist the Forum in every way," Butts said. "The Forum is the number one concert venue in the state of California and number two in the country in booked events. We're proud of the Forum, but we're not proud of what they've done here."
Officials with the Forum issued a statement in response to the comments by Butts and Miller, saying they "support the fundamental allegations in our complaint."
"Mayor Butts relied on deception and fraud to make the city's agreement with the Clippers possible, and the city clearly violated its contractual commitments to the Forum," according to the company. "We will continue to energetically defend the Forum and the many benefits it provides to Inglewood."