January 12, 2008 in City

Judge gives go-ahead for auction of raceway

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane Raceway Park will be sold at public auction within 90 days, capping a five-year legal fight by more than 500 limited partners who say they’ve seen no return on investments they made to build the facility in the early 1970s.

The auction was approved Friday by Superior Court Judge Robert Austin, who granted an order submitted by court-appointed receiver Barry W. Davidson to hire J.P. King Auction Co. Inc., of Gadsden, Ala. The firm will market the 600-acre site nationwide and sell it at public auction by April 13.

Orville Moe, who operated the track for decades until being banned from the facility by the court, didn’t show up for the hearing, but his latest attorney, Aaron Lowe, was there and attempted to block the sale.

“I would object to it,” Lowe told the court, noting the contract with J. P. King was not the lowest bid submitted to the receiver. Lowe did not file a formal motion attempting to block the sale.

Davidson, who was appointed as a court receiver in 2005 and has supervised operations at the track since then, told the court J.P. King seeks a $129,300 marketing fee, but will take a lower real estate commission than other auction companies that had lower upfront marketing fees.

Prospective buyers may include Spokane County, eyeing the site for a new jail, and the Kalispel Tribe, which operates the adjoining Northern Quest Casino. It’s also possible that a consortium of buyers could jell and jointly buy, then subdivide the Airway Heights site.

Outside court, Davidson and J.P. King representative Errold Sutter said a sale date hasn’t been determined, but will be announced once details of the auction – including the location – are ironed out.

Prior to the auction, there likely will be tours of the facility for interested buyers.

In a related matter at Friday’s hearing, the receiver’s attorney, John Giesa, asked the court to fine Moe $164,000 in “remedial sanctions” for being in contempt of court for not producing racetrack and investor documents sought under subpoenas in the civil suit.

Giesa also asked the court to levy a fine and attorneys fees against Moe’s daughter, Susan Ross, who claims to have just found stock ownership documents she failed to produce after being subpoenaed for a court hearing and depositions months ago.

Ross is “simply a straw-man for her father,” Giesa told the court.

“This ‘cat and mouse game’ can’t be tolerated,” Giesa said of the actions of Ross and Moe. “This is a court of law.”

Ross’ attorney, Julie Twyford, said Giese and Davidson, representing the limited partners, were attempting “to throw Miss Ross and Orville Moe into the same pot.”

Twyford said Ross found the ownership documents “in her father’s house which is a mess. Everything was in piles everywhere.”

Ross shouldn’t be fined or slapped with attorney fees for failing to earlier produce the documents, Twyford said.

The judge said he was inclined to levy a substantial fine against Moe, as much as $164,000, but asked the receiver and his attorney to return to court with a formal order “so due process can occur” before any financial sanction is imposed.

The judge also left open the possibility that he will assess Ross with attorney fees caused by her delay in producing the documents sought under earlier subpoenas.

“I’ve tried to be clear and careful with Mr. Moe,” the judge said, referring to his previous courtroom admonishments, directing the former track operator to turn over all business records.

“Clearly, discovery violations by Mr. Moe are rampant,” the judge said. “His record of cooperating and following the court’s order is abysmal.”


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