MUNICIPAL LAW

  • Represents the City of Savannah as City Attorney (Effective November 1, 1012). Acts as General Counsel to the city, and is responsible for providing counsel to the Mayor and Aldermen and the City Manager, and for managing all litigation, and all other city legal work. Supervises city legal staff, and outside counsel.

REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT, PRIVATE-PUBLIC PARTNERSHIPS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

  • Represents Jekyll Island-State Park Authority in commercial real estate matters concerning the redevelopment of Jekyll Island, Georgia, as Special Assistant Attorney General of Georgia.
  • Represented the developers of the world’s most advanced wood pellet manufacturing plant, recently constructed near Waycross, Georgia, southeast of Savannah.
  • Represented the developer of Trustees’ Garden, which is located where the original gardens were planted by the Trustees of the Colony of Georgia. The project is located on the site of a former manufactured gas plant. In cooperation with counsel for the seller-utility, obtained “prospective purchaser” limitation of liability certification for the buyer and developer from Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
  • Represented the developers of News Place at Ellis Square on the site of the former Savannah Morning Newsbuildings in the Savannah historic district. The project was a public-private partnership that included the demolition of a parking garage on a city square, the construction of a 1075-space subterranean garage, the restoration of one of Savannah’s historic squares, and the redevelopment of surface properties for hotel, residential, and retail uses. Negotiated the successful closing of a seven-party simultaneous transaction in which the City contracted to build the garage; its authority issued bonds for the garage and separate hotel, retail, and office; and residential developers acquired surface properties and long-term parking rights in the garage.
  • Represented the developer of the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort on Hutchinson Island, across the Savannah River from downtown Savannah (with partner Drew Ernst). The project was a $200 million public-private partnership that included the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center, a 400-room Westin resort hotel, golf course, and spa, and over 200 acres of adjacent mixed-use development. Negotiated water and sewer agreements to drill utility lines under the Savannah River shipping channel, development agreements for a riverwalk, construction of roads and interchange access by the Georgia Department of Transportation, annexation of the project into the City of Savannah, and related governmental contracts. Handled negotiations with the City of Savannah, Chatham County, and the Georgia Department of Transportation.
  • Represented Fort Howard Corporation in locating and constructing a $750 million recycled tissue mill in Effingham County. When announced in 1986, the project was the largest industrial investment in Georgia’s history. Negotiated land assembly, including purchase of over thirty separate parcels of land. Handled permitting issues, state and local tax and zoning issues, and coordination with various state agencies including the Office of the Governor, Georgia Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Division, and Department of Community Affairs. Successfully negotiated a payment in lieu of taxes agreement for the project and later represented the owner in defeating a challenge to enforceability of the agreement.
  • Represented W.E.T. Inc. (Wetlands Environmental Technology) in obtaining the first permit in the United States from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop and sell credits from a commercial wetland mitigation bank. Represented a related company in obtaining a similar permit for a major wetland mitigation bank on the site of the Monastery of the Holy Ghost near Conyers, Georgia, and in successfully selling out the bank.
  • Represented the owner of a 4,000 acre timber tract located on all four quadrants of the intersection of Interstate Highways 16 and 95 in selling the property in phases over a period of several years. Negotiated a development agreement under which the seller obtained a percentage of the retail sales price as the property was developed.
  • Represented successive owners of Oglethorpe Mall in Savannah, the largest regional shopping center in South Georgia, for over thirty years. Handled all types of legal work involved in the development and management of the mall including land acquisition and zoning for expansions, leasing, controversies with major tenants, dispossessory actions, and other litigation and governmental relations.

BUSINESS LITIGATION AND BUSINESS DISPUTES

  • Extensive experience in representing businesses and individuals in business litigation, including the following types of cases:
    —Contract disputes
    —Real estate cases including land line, easement, and other title claims
    —Business break-ups and partnership disputes
    —Leasehold disputes and dispossessory actions
    —Property tax appeals
    —Antitrust
    —Employment litigation
    —Professional malpractice
    —Trademark litigation
    —Banking disputes
    —Construction litigation
  • Experience in counseling businesses on loss avoidance and mitigation, and participating in many mediations to resolve business disputes.
  • Successfully sued a major bank which failed to fund a client’s loan for acquisition of a shopping center in October 2008 when the markets crashed, and then attempted to charge the client for the bank’s trading losses in derivatives which it had acquired in connection with a rate lock agreement for the proposed loan. Client was able to settle the case on favorable terms and acquire the shopping center.
  • Acted as lead trial counsel in a successful plaintiff’s antitrust case concerning a secondary boycott conspiracy. Port Terminal & Warehousing Co v. John S. James Co., 92 F.R.D. 100 (S.D. Ga. 1981).
  • Successfully defended a bank holding company and a community bank, in litigation brought by a dissident shareholder seeking to block a bank merger. Represented the defendants in three state court suits and a proceeding before the Georgia Securities Commissioner alleging securities fraud. Client was able to proceed with its merger.

BANKRUPTCY AND WORKOUTS

  • Co-counsel to Debtor in a Chapter 11 case that involved the liquidation of a large paper mill property in St. Marys, Georgia.
  • Represented Chapter 7 Trustee in pursuing a fraudulent conveyance action against the business partners of a debtor. Successfully obtained substantial recovery for creditors in what was believed to be a no-asset case. Wessinger v. Spivey (In re Galbreath), 286 B.R. 185 (Bankr. S.D.Ga. 2002).
  • Represented banks, other financial institutions, and business clients in many problem loan workouts and foreclosures, bankruptcies, and related litigation.
  • Successfully defended the former owner of a motel in Tennessee in a suit by a lender seeking a $4 million deficiency judgment pursuant to a ten year-old guaranty.
  • Successfully obtained an injunction to stop a foreclosure against a Savannah hotel because the lender’s unauthorized disclosure of client’s confidential financial information to potential bidders at the sale may have violated bank secrecy laws. The ruling enabled the client to sell the hotel and to avoid a multi-million dollar deficiency.
  • Successfully defended a developer of resort real estate who was being sued by his lender after the lender was closed down by Canadian officials for securities fraud and had failed to fund a loan commitment to the client. Client settled the case on favorable terms, emerged from bankruptcy, and retained ownership of its property.
  • Successfully defeated Debtor’s attempt to avoid our Isle of Jersey client’s debt deed on an Atlanta hotel on the ground that it had failed to register as an alien corporation under the Georgia RICO Act. Eventually obtained complete payoff of debt plus attorney’s fees.
    See Five Star Partners, L.P. v. Vincent Netherlands Properties, N.V. (In re Five Star Partners), 169 B.R. (Bankr. N.D. Ga. 1994)(related case).