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York County sues Tepper companies, City of Rock Hill over 'failed vanity project'

The Carolina Panthers project might be dead, but the lawsuits continue.
Scott Morgan
South Carolina Public Radio
The Carolina Panthers project might be dead, but the lawsuits continue.

Following last week’s bankruptcy filing by GT Real Estate, York County is suing three companies owned by Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper and the City of Rock Hill over what it’s calling a ‘failed vanity project.’

The county is seeking $21 million from Appaloosa Management, Tepper Sports Holding, and DT Sports Holding – three Tepper-owned companies at the center of now-idled plans to build an $800 million practice and events facility in Rock Hill.

According to a lawsuit filed Friday by York County, the money was to be used to expand a piece of Mt. Gallant Road near the partially built site. That expansion never happened.

The suit also claims Rock Hill failed to issue appropriate bonds connected to the Panthers project – something the city has denied.

York County’s official statement on the filing reads, in part, "The purpose of the lawsuit is to protect the County and its taxpayers and to recover damages caused by these defendants."

Language in the suit is more direct. It states: “Rather than cover the ballooning project budget themselves, the Tepper Defendants took money from York County and its taxpayers.”

Following an unrelated event in Rock Hill Thursday, mayor John Gettys accused Tepper’s GT Real Estate LLC of declaring bankruptcy in order to avoid paying contractors.

The Tepper companies have not publicly responded to the lawsuit.

Rock Hill released a statement Friday afternoon:

“The County has needlessly and recklessly commenced a frivolous lawsuit against the City. Time will reveal that this lawsuit was a colossal waste of public money. We reiterate the City has not breached any contract involving the Panther’s project and remains eager to present the facts in any forum against any party desiring an adversarial posture with the City.

“The County’s current lawsuit is both unfortunate and baseless. The City certainly did not cause the County to turn over $21 million to the Panthers to complete a Pennies for Progress project. The City has offered to work side-by-side with the County to protect the interests of our citizens. The City has previously offered to conference with the County’s lawyers and provide the factual foundation showing the City is not in breach of any agreement. That the County commenced this lawsuit against the City without carefully examining these facts is disturbing and revealing as to the County’s priorities and agenda. Every City resident is a County taxpayer. We feel strongly that the City and County should be working arm-in-arm to ensure that the taxpayers in the City and County are best protected. Apparently, a majority of the York County Council do not agree, which is regrettable.”

York County’s statement concludes: “We will permit the filing to speak for itself and there will be no further comment at this time.”

Scott Morgan is the Upstate multimedia reporter for South Carolina Public Radio, based in Rock Hill. He cut his teeth as a newspaper reporter and editor in New Jersey before finding a home in public radio in Texas. Scott joined South Carolina Public Radio in March of 2019. His work has appeared in numerous national and regional publications as well as on NPR and MSNBC. He's won numerous state, regional, and national awards for his work including a national Edward R. Murrow.