Tuesday's Mineral Wells City Council meeting ended with a bang with the announcement that American Precision Ammunition filed a federal lawsuit against the city and others.
The suit's plaintiffs include company owner Matt Campbell and his daughter, Lauren. Defendants with the city are Mineral Wells Industrial Foundation, the Mineral Wells/Palo Pinto County Area Growth Council and, individually, Area Growth Council Executive Director Steve Butcher and Jake Smith.
Mayor Christopher Perricone, who sided with APA in its wrongful action claims and who wanted to investigate matters surrounding the deal with the ammo company, city and Industrial Foundation not long after he took office in 2018, publicly announced being served with the suit after council reconvened from an hour-long closed session.
This is a copy of the 28-page lawsuit filed in federal court by American Precision Ammunition, its owner Matt Campbell and his daughter, Laure…
Council's closed session dealt with Perricone's lawsuit he filed against the city two weeks ago in Parker County. The mayor was not able to take part in the closed-door meeting.
The meeting was quickly adjourned after Perricone's announcement of the lawsuit.
Filed Tuesday in United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Fort Worth, the 28-page original petition is backed by more than 100 pages of supporting documents.
In short, the plaintiffs claim violations of constitutional rights to due process and injuries arising from monetary losses based on alleged deceptive practices and fraud committed by the city, Growth Council, Industrial Foundation, Butcher and former City Manager Lance Howerton.
The suit refers specifically to a $150,000 gift it said the city promised to provide, but didn't, and allegedly violating the Texas Open Meetings Act by committing a contract breach in how city council terminated its tax abatement agreement with APA over what council members said was the company's failure to perform and meet the agreement's terms to build a new manufacturing plant on 88-acres of land gifted it by the Industrial Foundation.
The suit also refers to a house on the large Ellis White Road tract that Campbell believed would be part of the deal, but was not and became the source of a complaint to the Texas Ethics Commission against Butcher. The commission cleared Butcher of intentional wrongdoing.
As for Smith, he publicly acknowledged on social media in 2018 conducting his own investigation into the Industrial Foundation and ammo plant deal. The lawsuit says Smith, a state trooper, offered to help Campbell's daughter with a traffic citation.
The lawsuit says Smith did not show up for the court hearing, but wearing his Texas Department of Public Safety uniform and driving a DPS patrol vehicle, approached Campbell and his daughter outside and directed her to go to her vehicle and wait while instructing Campbell to get in his patrol car.
Campbell said Smith drove him to another location and questioned him for 90 minutes, while requesting all original documents related to the ammo plant's dealings with the Industrial Foundation, Area Growth Council and the city. Campbell said Smith claimed he was conducting an investigation on behalf of the city.
Campbell says Smith violated his constitutional rights, including those under the Fourth Amendment by acting under "the color of law" without a warrant by detaining and "interrogating" Campbell.
The information Mineral Wells City Council used to consider a tax abatement proposal and economic reinvestment zone for American Precision Amm…
The lawsuit alleges that Smith, the Area Growth Council, Industrial Foundation and Butcher engaged in libel and slander against APA through oral and written statements that were "defamatory, false and without privilege."
APA also claims Butcher, the Foundation and AGC intentionally interfered with the company's contracts and relationships with various vendors and suppliers. Also the suit claims the city was negligent in its inspections and failure to timely and properly issue a certificate of occupancy for the Garrett Morris Parkway property.
APA relocated its operations permanently to the Garrett Morris Parkway building previously occupied by Perry Equipment Co. APA was able to secure a bank loan in an arrangement with the Industrial Foundation, which owned the building and assigned its equity and made a gift to APA amounting to $270,000 taken off the $770,000 sale price.
The tax abatement agreement was tied to the Ellis White Road property and required, among other things, construction of a manufacturing plant and the hiring of a certain number of jobs within a certain timeframe. That property is now listed for sale for $635,000, almost double paid by Industrial Foundation.
The city and Palo Pinto County agreed to create an investment zone for the Wolters Industrial Park property and abate for 10 years a portion of taxes – the city capped the annual abatement at just over $500,000. City council also backed a non-recourse $10 million bond intended to help Precision Ammunition acquire a major manufacturing component. None of that happened.
The company's lawsuit seeks recovery of damages – actual and which the court could double or triple – for lost revenue, nominal and exemplary damages, all costs associated with litigating the case, and attorney fees with pre- and post-judgement interest.
The suit was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by attorney Lance "Luke" H. Beshara of the Fort Worth law firm Patel Gaines PLLC.