Some plaintiffs listed in a lawsuit against Orem city are bailing out, saying they weren't told the truth about what they were doing.
"I am going to pull out for sure," said Tim Bird, one of the owners of Computer Recyclers Inc., who was shocked to find himself part of a suit being brought in part by John Price of Price Development Company. Price owns JP Realty, developers of the Provo Towne Centre mall presently under construction in south Provo.The lawsuit contends Orem unconstitutionally gave away tax money to ZCMI and Woodbury Corp. to keep ZCMI from leaving University Mall and relocating to the new Provo mall.
"Honestly, I knew there was the possibility (of a lawsuit) but I didn't know one of the participants was a realtor for the Provo Mall," Bird said. "That's totally fishy and I'm not going to have anything to do with it."
Bird says he is, in fact, very opposed to Orem's decision to hand out tax dollars to big companies, but he did not understand where the lawsuit was coming from.
"If I was to leave (Orem), they'd tell me, `Bye!' " he said. "I don't know if the question is whether or not the mall is worth saving but whether the city should hand out that kind of money. There's no reason to pay the big businesses tax incentives.
"Why should our city be involved in economics? It needs to be a free society."
Clark Heringer, owner of Heringer Marine, feels the same way.
He's also planning to "probably" pull his name off the list of those included in the lawsuit filed May 26 in 4th District Court under the name "People For Fair Taxation."
"It was my understanding that what I was signing was a complaint against Orem city. I was not aware that it was a lawsuit."
Heringer said he was called by a woman who told him it was a petition to the city saying that he agreed with filing a complaint.
"But I think I'm like a pawn in this," he said.
Meanwhile, he's fuming that city officials who were elected largely on the basis that they did not support tax incentives have offered Woodbury Corporation and ZCMI millions of dollars to keep the mall up and running.
"They said they wouldn't do tax incentives and they go and do the biggest one there is!" he said.
Heringer said he has never asked for tax relief or a tax break, partly because he doesn't believe it's right to ask and partly because he doesn't think the city would consider it.
"I think what Orem city has done is wrong. If the mall went out, I think people would shop pretty much where they have always shopped."
Along with Computer Recyclers, Heringer Marine and Price Development Company, three other companies are listed as plaintiffs: Orem Vacuum, Video Care and Hobby Stop, along with Jane and John Does.
The suit, filed through the law office of Suitter Axland in Salt Lake City, calls not only for an injunction against Orem in giving money to ZCMI and Woodbury Cor-po-ra-tion, but for damages "and treble damages" against themselves.
According to the information in the lawsuit, the city has powers to assess and collect taxes for the purpose of furnishing local public services, maintaining local utilities and to make public improvement, "but (does) not include the power of a city to make gifts, donations, or other transfers without adequate consideration."