By STEPHANIE REITZ, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A Connecticut real estate developer has lost his bid to pursue an antitrust lawsuit that alleges corruption by former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim and others cost him a $1 billion project.
The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled unanimously Friday to reject an appeal by Alex Conroy, who alleged that Ganim and his associates violated state antitrust laws by stifling competition for commercial development in the city.
Conroy said his company, Bridgeport Harbour Place I LLC, lost a contract with the city in 2001 to develop the Steel Point area after he refused to pay bribes and kickbacks to Ganim and his associates.
The antitrust allegations were separate from similar claims, including fraudulent representation, involving Steel Point in another lawsuit in which Conroy was awarded $1.4 million from Ganim and others in 2008. But Conroy’s antitrust claims were dismissed for lack of evidence by a Superior Court judge, whose decision was upheld by the state Appellate Court.
That appeals court decision was upheld Friday by the state Supreme Court, which said it was “not persuaded” by Conroy’s claim that Ganim and his associates had a chokehold on all development in the market.
Ganim later served seven years in federal prison on corruption convictions.
William Gallagher, an attorney for Conroy, called the Supreme Court’s decision “unfortunate” but not surprising, since they knew that persuading the justices to let them take the claim to a jury despite the lower court’s decisions would be difficult.
“It’s very distressing that claims against government officials and municipal employees in this case who took bribes and kickbacks for steering public contracts is inactionable. But we did the best we could,” Gallagher said Friday.
Jeffrey White, a lawyer for the city of Bridgeport, told the Supreme Court during oral arguments before the justices last spring that Conroy already had his day in court: a four-month trial on similar allegations that included 500 exhibits and dozens of witnesses and that resulted in the awards against Ganim and others.
White said Friday that the city was “gratified” by the court’s unanimous decision to uphold what he said was a “well-reasoned opinion” from the Appellate Court.
Conroy had planned for a retail, office and entertainment complex at the 50-acre Steel Point site and said he lost at least $5 million trying to develop the project.
Conroy’s company was awarded development rights by the city and a deal was signed in 1998. Conroy claims that when he refused to take part in the corruption, the city forced unreasonable delays, demands and conditions on the company that forced Conroy’s three financing partners to withdraw.
The city eventually terminated the contract in 2001 after Conroy’s company couldn’t meet its contractual obligations.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)