An attorney threatening to sue Salt Lake City for $5 million in damages because of plans to locate a homeless shelter in a west downtown area failed to gain permission from several business owners named as claimants.
Walter Plumb, an attorney claiming to represent the West Downtown Business and Property Owners Association, sent a letter to Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis expressing the association's intent to file suit against the city.But some of the five claimants listed in the July 8 letter contacted the Deseret News and said that despite their desire to file suit, they can't afford to do so, and did not give Plumb permission to use their names in the letter.
Later, however, some of the claimants recanted earlier assertions and said they were in fact parties to the suit.
Richard Thomas, of Thomas Electric Co., 549 W. Second South, said he still was listed as a claimant without his "knowledge or consent."
Although Thomas said he feels the city "stabbed us in the back," by locating a homeless shelter in a formerly prosperous business area, it was "irresponsible" for Plumb to use his and other business owners' names in the letter.
Assistant City Attorney Bruce Baird called the tactic "questionable" and added that state law "does not give someone the right to mine for . . . claims."
Plumb denied the letter submitted to the city included names of claimants who had not given him permission to list them as claimants.
"That's absolutely not true," he said, adding that all the listed claimants had met with Plumb and agreed with the letter of intent to sue the city.
Thomas said, however, that although a possible lawsuit was discussed and even embraced by business owners during a meeting with Plumb, he and others did not agree to being listed as claimants in the threatened suit.
The possible suit would allege the city has "over-concentrated" homeless facilities in the area near a warehouse at 210 S. Rio Grande St. being renovated by the private Shelter the Homeless Committee for a homeless family and men's shelter. The concentration of facilities, which is contrary to the city's downtown master plan and past city policy, has "serious adverse effects" on safety, general welfare and economic conditions in the business area, the suit charges.
The June 8 letter of intent to sue lists Rio Grande Associates, Josh Associates, Cannon Family partnership, R. Neil McDonald and Richard M. Thomas as claimants.
Peter Henderson, a member of Rio Grande Associates and Ned Cannon, of Cannon Family Partnership, disavowed their association with the potential lawsuit, but later said they would join in potential litigation. McDonald could not be reached while Johan A. Duraham of Josh Associates said he was a claimant.
City attorneys are evaluating the claims and have sent letters asking Plumb to clarify his intentions and claimants.