Goliad retains law firm in condemnation fight against Navy

March 3, 2011 at 7:04 p.m.
Updated March 2, 2011 at 9:03 p.m.

With the condemnation threat of the Goliad Airpark looming, the Goliad County Commissioners Court continues to battle with the U.S. Navy.

Commissioners unanimously voted Monday to retain the Law Offices of Barron & Adler, of Austin, to represent the county in its dealings with the Navy.

"We're going to leave it to their judgment which filings are appropriate," County Judge David Bowman said. "A motion to dismiss will probably be one of those filings."

Bowman signed a contingency contract with the law firm, which spells out a compensation scale through which the law firm would receive a certain percentage of the profits from the sale of the airpark.

The Navy filed a Declaration of Taking on Feb. 11, that announced its intent to acquire the 1,136 acres through eminent domain and with a price tag of $2.36 million.

Bowman said he received those filings on Feb. 18, which stated the county had 20 days to contest the condemnation.

On Feb. 17, the court voted to seek legal counsel on the matter, a move that disappointed members of the Goliad Airpark Coalition.

The coalition was in talks with its own law firm about the possibility of filing an injunction against the Navy, citing the precedence set by a U.S. Supreme Court case Dalton v. Specter. The county would need to file the case, but legal expenses would have been privately funded by the coalition.

That 1994 Supreme Court case held that an executive order to shut down a naval base is not subject to judicial review.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission, a process of the U.S. government, closed the airfield in 1991.

Coalition Chair Serena Edwards said she was cautious of the court's latest decision.

"We're very guarded, because we just don't know this law firm that the county has hired," Edwards said.

Bowman said two other law firms recommended Barron & Adler as a top-notch firm with condemnation experience.

But Edwards said she's concerned the contract gives the law firm incentive to sell rather than dismiss. The coalition is still pursuing its own counsel, Edwards said.

"I mentioned in the meeting that I wonder if (the law firm) would have a vested interest financially, business wise, in really pursuing the dismissal," Edwards said.

The law firm would receive 33 percent of the first $1 million earned beyond the initial $2.36 million price tag, according to the contract. The percentage scales down for every million after that.

So far, the county has not filed anything in Victoria's Federal District Court, but will have to within the 20-day allowance to avoid waiving any defenses.

Bowman said the Navy's engineers and contractors are already on the airpark property, proceeding with its plans to have the airpark functional by 2012.

"Now, we just kind of wait," he said.



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