Bengals disappointed in County appeal

Posted: 3:45 p.m.

Despite a federal judge's dismissal of a Hamilton County lawsuit against the Bengals stemming from negotiations in which county officials admitted the Bengals furnished accurate information, county commissioners voted Wednesday to appeal U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spiegel's decision.

"The one person who has done that analysis and looked at all the facts is Judge Spiegel," said Bengals lawyer Stuart Dornette. "He is an experienced and thoughtful judge who concluded that the County did not have a claim to bring when they jumped into this lawsuit."

The appeal keeps alive a suit calling for millions of dollars in damages that has hung over the Bengals and the NFL for 34 months with the county claiming the club and the league violated state and federal anti-trust laws during negotiations of the 1997 Paul Brown Stadium lease.

In a statement released by the club, Dornette called it "all the more discouraging because Phil Heimlich, Todd Portune and their lawyers clearly did not take the time, before filing the original lawsuit, to find out the facts."

Heimlich and Portune voted for the appeal while Pat DeWine dissented on the three-man commission.

Although Spiegel said in his 64-page decision issued Feb. 9 that he felt the Bengals had what could possibly be called an "egregiously" favorable lease that might have been reached by "unlawful competitive behavior," Spiegel also wrote, "Not one of the County representatives has indicated that the revenue information provided by the Bengals and/or the NFL was in any way incorrect or misleading."

Spiegel also noted the lawsuit failed to meet statute of limitations while observing the county's negotiators "indicated under oath that, in substance, they believed the Bengals negotiated with them in good faith."

There is speculation the county could take the Bengals to state court on fraud charges.

The team would feel comfortable in state court because fraud has the same statute of limitations as anti-trust, and its case against fraud would be bolstered by a federal judge saying county officials indicated the Bengals didn't commit fraud because they negotiated in good faith while also providing accurate revenue information.

Heimlich linked the three-year-old lawsuit to the nine-year-old lease when he ripped the team for refusing to alter the part of the agreement in which the team has the right to restrict height of buildings in the Banks area between PBS and Great American Ballpark.

"They've refused to give that up," Heimlich told The Enquirer. "This appeal may be a hope of removing those restrictions."

Dornette said the Banks issue, "doesn't have anything to do with the anti-trust claims that Judge Spiegel threw out."

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