MERCER COUNTY Authority sues Winner over fees

A suggestion to submit the dispute to binding arbitration wasn't acceptable, the authority's solicitor said.
SHARON, Pa. -- Mercer County Industrial Development Authority is suing Winner Development LLC seeking to recover some $31,000 in administrative fees it says Winner owes.
Atty. Thomas Kuster, representing the authority, said the lawsuit was filed Friday morning in Mercer County Common Pleas Court.
The fees represent services rendered by the authority and its agent, Penn-Northwest Development Corp., to Winner Development in the latter's efforts to secure state funding to renovate the former Westinghouse Electric Corp. plant on Sharpsville Avenue.
James E. Winner Jr., principal in Winner Development, dropped his pursuit of a $7 million state grant for the project at the end of February, blaming the authority and, in particular, its chairman, Charles Bestwick, for his inability to secure those funds.
Bestwick and the authority maintain the problem in getting the money was that Winner failed to provide the state with the information it needed before releasing the money.
Disputed amounts
The authority said Winner Development originally owed $44,388 for the work done on the project's behalf.
Winner did pay $13,001, saying that is all his company owes based on its agreement with the authority.
That included $5,000 for each of two state funding applications and about $3,000 in legal fees, he said.
The authority said Winner's company still owes just over $31,000.
Atty. John F. Hornbostel Jr., representing Winner, had proposed a form of binding arbitration to settle the dispute.
He told the authority in April that the two sides should submit written briefs on their positions to an impartial panel of three attorneys and let them decide the issue.
Kuster said Friday that isn't an acceptable form of arbitration. It provides no method for any fact-finding that would be necessary for the panel to render a decision.
The issue remains unresolved, and the authority has no option but to take it to court, he said.
Reason for lawsuit
Bestwick said the authority can't just write off the money. The authority is a public body and these are public funds.
There is an obligation to get that money back, he said, adding that the authority lived up to its end of the contract.
Hornbostel said that he can't understand why the authority balked at his arbitration proposal.
He also said Winner Development acknowledged that it might be responsible for some additional fees but that the company is still waiting for the authority to substantiate its claims.
He declined to comment further until he can review the lawsuit.