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This is an illustration of the proposed Waterloo Convention Center at Sullivan Brothers Plaza.

Courtesy illustration

WATERLOO — City Councilman Tom Lind is calling for a review of the downtown convention center sale following reports the developer was sued by a business partner on a hotel project in Omaha, Neb.

Lind contends he was unfairly criticized for asking questions about Leslie Hospitality and owner Edwin Leslie when the Omaha-based firm came before the city this year seeking to take ownership and renovate the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center.

“I was accused of leading a witch hunt when this deal first came to Waterloo,” Lind said in a news release. “My name was drug through the mud for simply asking questions and asking for documentation.

“As a representative of the people of Waterloo I have an obligation to ensure that their tax money is protected and that agreements the city enters into on their behalf are upheld,” he added. “This recent lawsuit is alarming, and we owe it to our citizens to make sure that Mr. Leslie doesn’t allow something like this to happen in Waterloo.”

Council members voted Aug. 29 to approve an agreement giving the convention center and $1 million to Leslie Hospitality in return for a $6 million renovation. Leslie Hospitality is acquiring the adjacent Ramada Hotel from a private owner and will receive tax rebates for its renovation too.

The Omaha World Herald last week reported Century-Omaha Land, of South Dakota, had sued Leslie Hospitality over a $40 million renovation of The Hotel RL and adjacent Coco Key Water Resort and Omaha Convention and Conference Center.

Century-Omaha Land had claimed Leslie Hospitality, which acquired a 51 percent stake in the project, had missed payments and caused $6.4 million in financial damage to the project.

Leslie countered in court records Century-Omaha had misrepresented their ownership position in the property by claiming the property was free of liens when it actually had undisclosed outstanding loans.

Leslie said he was barred from talking about the confidential settlement agreement the parties reached.

“This was a partnership dispute over a real estate transaction,” he said. “The settlement is something we feel was very much to our benefit.”

Leslie also said the case had no bearing on the Waterloo project, which is in final design and set to begin construction in January.

“Our Waterloo plans are moving forward with no delay,” he said. “We have a great set of partners on the project and lenders that are committed to working with us to move this all forward.”

Lind was not clear whom should review the development agreement or what that review would entail.

But he said it should not be handled by City Hall because Mayor Quentin Hart, Councilman Pat Morrissey and Sharon Juon, who defeated Lind in the last election and will take his seat in January, were endorsed by Leslie during the campaign.

Leslie said he was fine with a further review of the development agreement.

“I have nothing to hide,” he said. “If Mr. Lind feels there should be an investigation I’ll turn over all my records and the other council members can turn over all of theirs. I’m even willing to contribute the cost of having someone do it.”

Leslie sent information to Hart about the Omaha World Herald’s report, which Hart then forwarded by email to all council members.

“We don’t have any reason to believe this will have any bearing on the Waterloo project,” Hart said.

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Waterloo City Reporter

Waterloo city reporter for the Courier

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