|City of Stillwater v. Block 40 South, 2021 OK CIV APP 29
|Qui Tam; Municipal law
|June 11, 2021; Mandate Issued: July 14, 2021
|District Court of Payne County; Judge Kistler
|Route to this Court:
|Appeal of trial court’s order denying citizen’s Motion to Intervene
|In 2009, the City of Stillwater conveyed real property to a third party conditioned on the grantee operating a children’s museum on the property. Upon failure to operate a children’s museum on the property, the condition provided that the property would revert to the City of Stillwater (however, there was no definitive deadline in the condition or reverter clause to operate a museum on the property).
In 2017, with no museum ever having been developed on the property, the City Council voted to release the condition and the reverter clause. Shortly thereafter, the grantee conveyed the property to a developer. More than two years after the City Council’s action, but within two years of when the “Release” was filed of record, a citizen of the City filed a qui tam written demand with the City alleging that the City Council’s action violated the City Charter’s provisions requiring that “the sale or lease of city property…or the sale or other disposal of any interest therein the value of which property, lease or interest is more than” $250,000 required either a vote of the people or passage of a non-emergency ordinance by the Council along with notice to the public of its right to petition to have the sale or disposal put to a vote. It is not disputed that the City Council did not satisfy these provisions of its Charter, but the City contended that it was not necessary to do so.
The City initiated this action as a Petition for Declaratory Relief and sought a judgment declaring, among other things, that the reverter clause had only nominal value at the time of the release. The complaining citizen sought to intervene in the City’s action. The trial court found that the citizen’s qui tam demand was submitted after the two year limitations period expired, therefore, the citizen was not entitled to intervene by right. Citizen appealed.
|Standard of Review:
|“Intervention is mandatory where a statute confers an unconditional right to intervene or where the intervener claims an interest in the matter and disposition of the action may, as a practical matter, impair or impede the ability to protect that interest. Otherwise, intervention is within the discretion of the trial court.” quoting Skrapka v. Bonner, 2008 OK 30.
Intervener claims intervention by right under 60 O.S.2011 §373. This statute requires that a taxpayer may only file a qui tam action if the written demand was submitted to the governmental body within two years of the challenged transfer of public property. The City executed the “Release” on April 17, 2017, which was also the date that the Release was effective. The taxpayer’s written demand in this case was not delivered until more than two years later on June 21, 2019. The date the City executed the “Release” and made it effective controls for purposes of the two-year limitations period, not the later date of June 21, 2017 on which the Release was recorded in the land records. The taxpayer’s written demand was untimely and he was not entitled to intervene due to his untimely demand.
|Swinton, C.J. (author), Pemberton, P.J. and Bell, J. concur.
|Certiorari was not sought.