09-13 complex-01

Controversy over the Palestine Athletic Complex, which city council closed and a local judge re-opened this week, demonstrates how dysfunctional city government has become. 

Three days after city council members closed the Palestine Athletic Complex, a local judge ruled they acted without due process and ordered it reopened.

A writ granted Thursday to Carey McKinney, president of the Anderson County Football League, has unlocked the gates to the complex – at least for now.

Judge James Westley granted McKinney the writ of re-entry, including all buildings, gates, fields, and parking lots in the complex, after McKinney argued he was evicted without due process.

McKinney and the ACFL entered into a lease agreement Monday, paying the city more than $900 for use of the facility. That was one day before city council voted to close it to the public, citing its non-compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

In addition to the leasing fee, the ACFL invested roughly $4,000 in uniforms and equipment, plus $2,100 for insurance the city required.

“It's unfortunate we had to go to court like this,” McKinney told the Herald-Press Thursday. “If people would just take the time to sit down and talk things out, a lot can be accomplished.”

Resident Michael Ivy, who uses a wheelchair, sued the city in June. This week, Ivy's attorneys said Ivy made multiple attempts to talk to the city last year.

In August of 2018, Ivy wanted to discuss options for putting the complex into compliance with federal law over several years. After nine months without a response, Ivy took his case to court, his attorneys said.

Palestine Youth Athletic Association member, and administrator of the Facebook page “Save the Complex!” Ashley DeLeon agreed, saying city officials don't communicate with residents.

“They keep claiming transparency,” she said. “If they were transparent, they'd have the common courtesy of communicating with us.”

DeLeon, a mother of 4 sons who all play baseball at the complex, said she's happy McKinney knew the proper steps to take.

“He knows the law,” she said. “I'm glad he was here to stand up for the kids.”

The city has eight days to request a hearing in writing, after which the case would be heard within one week.

Failure to request a hearing could result in a judgment against the city.

A copy of the writ was also served to City Manager Leslie Cloer, who declined to comment Thursday because she hadn't reviewed the document with city attorneys.

James Boltz, a 17-year ACFL coach, said he was ready to roll.

“Its mostly awesome for the kids,” he told the Herald-Press. “Time for us to hit the fields and get started back up.”

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