Peebles' company files countersuit against Nickles, claims defamation
Megadeveloper R. Donahue Peebles has struck back at outgoing Attorney General Peter J. Nickles, who accused Peebles of committing fraud last month in leasing an Anacostia building to the city government.
On Nov. 10, Nickles filed suit on behalf of the District, claiming that a Peebles-controlled company had improperly charged $1.2 million in expenses back to the city -- including for bar tabs and political contributions -- pursuant to a lease on a building on Martin Luther King Avenue SE.
Now Peebles's company has countersued, saying it was the city that breached the lease "by failing to pay operating expenses that fall squarely within the District's contractual payment obligations" and furthermore broke a settlement agreement it had made with the company, violating principles of "good faith and fair dealing."
The complaint indicates that there was an ongoing dispute over whether the city owed Peebles or vice versa, but after the city real-estate office ordered audits of city leases this year, MLK Associates was singled out for harsh treatment by Nickles -- done "in order to retaliate against [Peebles] for his political activities opposing Mayor Fenty's reelection bid."
Nickles, the countersuit claims, "took an array of improper actions that abused the judicial process, publicly and repeatedly defamed MLK Associates and its partners, and presented MLK Associates in a false light."
For instance: Attorneys for the company met with District representatives, including Real Estate Services Director Robin-Eve Jasper, on Nov. 8. At the meeting, the suit says, Jasper "represented that she had full settlement authority from the District, and the Attorney General's office representatives did not dispute this representation." The District offered to settle the dispute if MLK Associates performed $100,000 worth of improvements to the building.
The owners agreed, but later that day, a top deputy to Nickles informed them there would be no deal. Nickles filed the fraud suit shortly thereafter.
Besides seeking back expense payments, Peebles and company are accusing Nickles of defaming MLK Associates as a "dishonest business that should not be trusted because it has engaged in egregious conduct defrauding the government," and are seeking damages.
Nickles was not immediately available for comment. A court date is set for Feb. 11 -- some five weeks after Nickles leaves the city's employ.
| December 20, 2010; 5:11 PM ET
Categories: Adrian Fenty, Don Peebles, The District
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