Former Mayor John Street denied claims yesterday by the Philadelphia Eagles that he quietly agreed to and then reneged on a deal to settle an $8 million dispute with the city for less than $1 million during his first term.
The Eagles made their claim in affidavits filed in court last month by team owner Jeffrey Lurie, president Joe Banner and Dean Adler, an attorney who represented the city in the negotiations to build Lincoln Financial Field.
Adler, who worked with the late developer Willard Rouse on the stadium negotiations, said that Street agreed to accept an "insignificant amount" from the Eagles. Lurie and Banner said that they took that to mean less than $1 million. Lurie added that Street didn't want the deal to be put down in writing.
"I never agreed to a deal," Street said yesterday. "If I had agreed to a deal, I would have put it in writing. It's almost ludicrous to think a mayor would tell two private citizens, 'You go and make a deal that binds the city of Philadelphia and there's not going to be any writing of any kind.' And somehow the city is going to be bound by that? That doesn't make any sense."
Tom Leonard, an attorney for the Eagles, took in what Street had to say and then responded: "I'm looking forward to taking Mayor Street's deposition."
Street spoke yesterday with City Solicitor Shelley Smith and said that he expects to be deposed, which would subject him to questioning from attorneys in the case.
Smith said that any comment she would make about Street's role in the dispute would likely be made first in filings to Common Pleas Court.
Mayor Nutter's staff first heard of the alleged Eagles deal with Street in October. Such a deal, according to the Nutter administration, would not be valid without a review by the Law Department.
Eagles spokeswoman Pamela Browner Crawley said that the team "had every reason to believe" that Adler and Rouse were authorized to make the deal.
"We are anxious to have this issue resolved and just put this behind us," Crawley said.
The dispute started when the city sought $8 million from the Eagles in promised skybox revenue at Veterans Stadium for the 2000 and 2001 season. The Eagles didn't pay up and then blamed the city for turf problems at the stadium that caused a 2001 pre-season game to be canceled. The Eagles said that that cost them $8 million.
The city sued the team in 2004. A judge ruled in 2005 that the Eagles owed the city the skybox money but did not rule on the team's counter claim for the lost game.
The Eagles, in court filings, said that the Street administration promised to make good on the deal "up until its final days" in office.
Street yesterday pointed to the 2004 lawsuit, filed during his second term, as proof that he never agreed to any deal. The former mayor said that he pledged to reach a "fair and reasonable" settlement.
The Eagles, Street added, continued to push for an agreement to pay less than $1 million.
"We thought it was significantly more than $1 million," Street said. "And let me tell you, people were all over the park on this. But we were never going to settle this claim for $1 million. We weren't going to settle it for $2 million. We thought we had a good claim." *