Terance Frazier, the Fresno developer who has had a long-running disagreement with the city over Granite Park, filed a federal lawsuit Friday night.
In the suit, Frazier claims the city of Fresno — which owns the facility — failed to live up to its obligations when he leased the Granite Park property to operate it as a recreational sports venue. When he complained and asked for a doubling of a subsidy included in the lease terms, the city retaliated with a damaging audit, the suit alleges.
According to the 65-page complaint, the city’s audit was faulty, as well as “defamatory” and “discriminatory” and should have never been publicly released.
While the lawsuit does not make a claim for a specific dollar amount, the body of the complaint alleges more than $11 million in damages.
“This is an unfortunate incident that falls under the category of no good deed goes unpunished,” attorney Kevin Little said, speaking on Frazier’s behalf. “The city, on the other hand, at every turn tried to undermine Mr. Frazier’s efforts.”
A Deal Gone Bad
For many years, the Granite Park complex, located on Cedar Avenue between Ashlan and Dakota avenues, lay vacant. A victim of the Great Recession — the sports facility included baseball/softball diamonds and soccer fields — it was filled with more weeds than players.
The city and Frazier’s non-profit, the Central Valley Community Sports Foundation, agreed to a 25-year lease in 2015. As part of the agreement, the city would pay Frazier $150,000 annually, in the form of a subsidy among other benefits and credits, to operate the park.
In return, CVCSF would rehabilitate the facility and offer recreational sports programming and handle the park’s day-to-day operations.
Frazier expected the city to provide the site with recycled water, known as purple water, which never came, according to the suit. This led to a $200,000 expense to keep the fields irrigated, the filing said.
“CVCSF complied with its maintenance and security obligations, again without any cooperation and despite the City of Fresno’s failure to make any effort to provide cost-saving purple water. The City of Fresno also failed to cooperate in granting permits for proposed billboards and signage on the site, which further decreased anticipated revenue,” the suit says.
Suit: A Request for More Help Leads to Retaliation
Faced with mounting expenses, in the summer of 2018, Frazier asked the city to double its subsidy to $300,000. The two sides agreed to an audit, which Frazier expected would show the facility was operating at a loss.
“When Mr. Frazier had the temerity in (the city’s) estimation to come back and ask for a greater contribution because of those failings, the city retaliated and audited him,” Little said.
The suit claims that there were ulterior motives for the audit.
“(City leaders) insisted that the audit have the objective of uncovering proof of unlawful or unethical conduct by Mr. Frazier, rather than assessing the Granite Park project,” the suit says.
The suit says the audit failed standard practices by not using random sampling of records, but rather a “subjective sampling that has the obvious potential for capaciousness.”
The audit found questionable bookkeeping practices, and loan repayments to Frazier and business partner TJ Cox — now a U.S. congressman — that were made from different accounts.
Cox has since divested himself from the project.