Buck War For Freedom

Despite a judge’s ruling that appears to weigh in favor of Macomb County in Michigan, the attorney for Freedom Hill Amphitheatre’s owners is saying the decision could cost county taxpayers millions.

Cindy Victor told the Macomb Daily that the federal court decision could give owners Hillside Productions a seven-figure jury settlement if the case gets to trial in April, as U.S.District Judge Robert Cleland allowed the jury to hear the argument that the company was damaged by "arbitrary and capricious" actions by county officials.

Hillside and the county have respectively filed a lawsuit and a countersuit against each other, principally over who owns parking fee revenues at the shed, among other issues. Hillside claims that Macomb County had deliberate bad timing when it laid claim to the parking fees, which in turn killed negotiations to sell the shed to Palace Sports & Entertainment.

Cleland recently dismissed several of Hillside’s constitutional claims, and the attorney for the county hailed the ruling, the paper said. But by allowing damages for Hillside, even under limitations, Hillside has the advantage, according to Victor.

"I think the jury is going to tell them to write that check," ruling that the county’s actions sabotaged the pending deal with Palace Sports, she told the paper. "And that’s going to be a lot of money." She added that, in contrast, the amount the county could win over revenue disputes is estimated at less than $10,000.

County attorney Al Addis told the Daily that Victor’s assessment is pretrial posturing.

"They say [Hillside] lost $10 million over the issue of parking revenue. If you do the numbers, well, that’s just ridiculous," Addis said. He also said that Palace continues to be in negotiations with Hillside to buy the shed, and would not have been scared away by a $500,000 (at the time) parking dispute.