A three judge Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court panel has reversed a Lehigh County Court ruling and confirmed that Mayor Ed Pawlowski had a legal right to unilaterally cancel a contract with the Allentown Patriots, owners of Patriots Park.
Back in 1967, then-Mayor Ray Bracy entered into an option agreement with the Patriots. The sole purpose of the agreement was to give the city an option to purchase the property owned by the Patriots if and when certain events occurred. None of those events has ever occurred, but in exchange for that “option,” the city had certain maintenance responsibilities for the fields. Over the years, the city provided the Patriots with many services that any other non-profit organization in the city (or for-profit) is required to pay for, including trash hauling.
In 2014, the city determined that it was no longer economically feasible to provide these services to the Patriots, for an option that likely would never be exercised for the purchase of the land. Under the terms of the option agreement, the option could only be effective when the Patriots cease to exist, or when the Patriots stop using the property for park or public recreation purposes, or if the Patriots attempt to sell the property to someone other than the city. Pawlowski wrote the Patriots to advise them of his decision to end the option agreement and terminate garbage collection services.
The Patriots sued and last July Lehigh County Judge Doug Reichley ruled in their favor and awarded the Patriots nearly $4,000 in reimbursement for services. Both sides appealed; the Patriots wanted a larger reimbursement and the city wanted the decision reversed. The Commonwealth Court heard argument on March 7, 2017 and issued its decision in the city’s favor today.