The Red Wing (Minn.) City Council announced that it will avoid litigation with Wendell Pittenger, the former operator of the golf course, after a three-sided agreement has been reached. Under the agreement, Pittenger owes $140,000 in damages to the city after he attempted to walk away from his lease, leaving unpaid taxes and hefty bills.
The Red Wing City Council announced that the long-standing legal dispute over Mississippi National Golf Links has been settled out of court, the Rochester (Minn.) Post-Bulletin reported.
The paperwork of the three-sided agreement must still be signed by all parties, but the framework is as follows:
• Red Wing retains rights to the name and logo at the 36-hole golf course, while also receiving $140,000 in damages from Wendell Pittenger, the course’s longtime operator. Pittenger closed the course last fall and attempted to walk away from his lease, leaving about $35,000 in unpaid taxes. His lease with the city was scheduled to run through 2038. He no longer holds the lease, the Post-Bulletin reported.
• Pittenger will be responsible for settling the 1999 revenue bond with Associated Bank. A payment of $735,000 came due on November 1—the same day Pittenger closed the course—and has been at the heart of the legal dispute. Robert Benner, Pittenger’s legal representative, said that a compromise agreement has been reached on the bond payment, but Benner declined to provide financial details, the Post-Bulletin reported.
• All parties will be released from any additional claims, including Associated Bank dropping its claim to course revenue while the bond payment was in default. The bank’s claim was a key factor in the city’s decision to mothball the course for the 2013 golf season at the cost of $400,000, the Post-Bulletin reported.
The city sued Pittenger last October, naming Associated Bank as a party in the dispute. The matter was scheduled for a summary judgment hearing in November, with a jury trial scheduled for February 2014 if the issue remained unresolved. None of that will be needed now, the Post-Bulletin reported.
“Wendell wishes nothing but good fortune to Mississippi National and hopes it succeeds,” said Benner.
Red Wing City Council President Lisa Bayley said the parties are expected to sign the settlement papers in the next few weeks, with payments due by September 30, the Post-Bulletin reported.
“This is a significant step for us because the timing of it is such that we will avoid significant litigation cost,” said Bayley, who projected savings of up to $100,000 by settling early. “This allows us to move forward with the RFP with a clean slate.”
The city recently issued a request for proposals seeking a new operator to replace Pittenger, who had run the course since it opened in 1985. A recent informational meeting attracted nearly a dozen interested parties, including several well-known management groups from across the country, the Post-Bulletin reported.
C&RB reported on the city council’s request for proposals in August (“Mississippi National Golf Links Seeks New Operator“).
“It’s unfortunate,” council member Mike Schultz said of the lawsuit. “We lost a golf season, but we knew we had to take our time and walk our way through this. We want to really stage it so next season we’re ready to go again.”
The city paid to operate the driving range at Mississippi National this summer, largely as a courtesy to Red Wing High School’s girls golf team, the Post-Bulletin reported.
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