Van Amburg denies motion by county’s attorney

The Platte County Commissioners had an unsuccessful day in court last week via special attorney Todd Graves when judge James Van Amburg denied the county’s motion to halt defendant UMB Bank’s efforts to seek information from elected officials.

According to online court records, Van Amburg denied Graves’ motion for a protective order and stay pending a ruling on the plaintiff’s request for summary judgement on Friday, April 5.

Last month, commissioners asked the Platte County Circuit Court to issue a summary judgement prior to the scheduled May bench trail regarding the debts related to parking garages at Zona Rosa Town Center.

The move came shortly after attorneys for UMB Bank filed notices to take depositions from commissioners Ron Schieber, Dagmar Wood and John Elliott as well as county auditor Kevin Robinson.

Last November, the county filed suit against UMB Bank and the Industrial Development Authority of Platte County — the IDA was later dismissed from the suit — and asked the court for a declaration regarding the legality of a demand that the county repay bonds issued in 2007 for infrastructure at Zona Rosa.

The matter is still set for bench trial before Van Amburg on Friday, May 24.

In the filing, Platte County seeks a declaration from the court that, contrary to UMB Bank’s stated position, the county never obligated itself to appropriate for or make payments on the Zona Rosa bonds, according to the press release. The county also seeks a declaration that the trustee UMB Bank’s arguments otherwise would violate the Missouri Constitution.

Since the filing, attorneys representing Platte County have filed protests to the opposition’s efforts to gather documents and records, including the depositions of elected officials. With the Friday ruling, elected officials may again be summoned to complete deposition statements.

The requested declarations would resolve each of the demands made by the trustee, according to the release. UMB Bank has demanded that Platte County execute a “binding declaration” to make a payment, including a payment of $765,390.95 to cover the shortfall for the Zona Rosa bonds in 2018. It has further demanded that Platte County appropriate and pay for shortfalls in later years of an equal or greater amount through 2032. Because the principal and interest due on the bonds increases each year, the demands by the trustee could total up to $40 million.

A payment of about $1 million on the bonds was due in December 2018. That payment was not made and Van Amburg issued an order that Platte County must set aside $763,390 in a reserve fund until conclusion of the lawsuit.

Tax collections in Zona Rosa have come up short every year, but former ownership covered the shortfall until last year. The county received notice from the bond trustee in October that revenues to make the bond payment were short more than $1 million.

The commissioners’ statements last fall that they would not cover payments without a plan sparked off retaliatory strikes from credit rating organizations. In September, Moody’s and Standard and Poors reduced the county’s credit rating. Since the suit was filed in November, Standard and Poors reduced Platte County’s bonds to junk rating.