WATERTOWN — State Supreme Court Judge James P. McClusky has dismissed a lawsuit against the city over its lease with the Watertown Golf Club.
Developer P.J. Simao, who owns competing Ives Hill Country Club, had sued the city and the club in November contending the lease violates state General Municipal Law, legally necessitating that the agreement be voided and that the city retake possession of the property.
Mr. Simao, who plans to appeal Judge McClusky’s ruling, claimed that two leases entered into by the city with Watertown Golf Club should be voided because former Mayor Joseph M. Butler Sr. had a prohibited conflict of interest when he signed the leases, signing one in 2000 as mayor while also being a member of the club’s board of directors and signing a second in 2006 as club president after leaving office.
Mr. Simao argued that the 2000 lease was void under law from its beginning due to Mr. Butler’s alleged conflict and that the 2006 lease was a continuation of the earlier lease, thus also void. Judge McClusky disagreed, determining that although terms of both leases were similar, the 2006 lease legally superseded the 2000 lease.
“The 2006 lease replaces the 2000 lease, and although it does contain similar terms it is a stand-alone lease and does not simply continue or incorporate the 2000 lease. To find otherwise would prohibit the City and WGC from entering into any subsequent lease with substantially similar terms,” the judge wrote in a decision released Tuesday.
Judge McClusky further ruled that the city and the golf club had raised “equitable defenses” against claims that Mr. Butler violated the city’s Code of Ethics by appearing before the City Council in 2006 after ending his service with the city. The judge wrote that a violation of the Code of Ethics, unlike a General Municipal Law violation, would not necessarily void the lease. He also ruled the this cause of action was time barred under the statute of limitations. He dismissed that cause of action, as well as three additional cause of actions, for the same reasons.
Since litigation began in November, the golf club has sold its assets to Watertown developer Michael E. Lundy. It is envisioned that the club’s lease with the city would be transferred to Mr. Lundy. The 2006 lease runs through Dec. 31, 2029, and presently requires the golf club to make annual lease payments of $9,318 for use of 66 acres of city-owned land at Thompson Park.