The trustee who was left out of a decision to sell Pendleton King Park to a housing developer welcomes litigation filed by District Attorney Natalie Paine to block the sale, her attorney said Wednesday.
“We agree with the prayers for relief that Natalie Paine has made, and we look forward to the issues being resolved,” said Joe Rhodes, attorney for trustee Mary L. Speir.
Speir’s name did not appear on an Oct. 25 sales contract signed by the two other park trustees, Clarence Barinowski and Troy Breitmann, agreeing to sell the 64-acre park for $1.2 million to Winchester Homes LLC.
The contract outraged users and supporters of the park, which Augusta has leased since 1958 for $1 per year under the terms of Henry B. King’s 1933 will. The will specified that the property remain a public park in memory of King’s son, John Pendleton King II.
City officials denied knowledge of threats Barinowski and others said he’d made to sell the park if they didn’t accept his sales offer to them or to renegotiate the lease at a higher rent. Barinowski has said proceeds from the sale would go back to the trust, which also owns a cluster of homes called Pendleton Camp off Johns Road.
The Pendleton King Park Foundation, created in 1966 to develop and maintain the park, filed a lien this month to protect what it said was nearly $500,000 in resources it invested to maintain the site as a park. City officials have said they spend about $130,000 in public money a year on park maintenance in addition to sales tax contributions for capital improvements.
As legal challenges to the sale increase, the city has secured a month-to-month lease of the property now signed by all three trustees. Either side must give 60 days’ notice to terminate the lease.
Speir, the daughter of former trustee Eugenia Lehmann, has been a trustee since 2009, according to court filings. Barinowski, the son of former trustee Emil Barinowski, has been a trustee since 1974. Queenborough Bank and Trust, whose trust officer is Breitmann, succeeded Georgia Bank and Trust as trustee in April.
Paine’s petition asks the court to enjoin the trustees from selling the park without court approval, declare it be used in perpetuity as a park, declare that Pendleton Camp’s purpose as housing for World War I veterans and families has been met, void the sales contract with Winchester and order the trustees to provide a full accounting of trust activity and file required returns with Richmond County Probate Court.