Austin Lawsuit against comptroller over F1 subsidy withdrawn

A judge today granted a plaintiff’s request to withdraw a lawsuit against Comptroller Susan Combs over a $25 million state subsidy for a Formula One race planned at a racetrack southeast of Austin next year.

The withdrawal comes a week after District Judge Rhonda Hurley ruled that she would not issue a temporary restraining order halting the payment from the comptroller’s Major Events Trust Fund to Circuit of the Americas.

At the time, plaintiff’s attorney Bill Aleshire said that decision put the lawsuit in doubt.

The lawsuit, filed by three Austin-area residents, asserted, among other things, that the comptroller had promised local race organizer Tavo Hellmund the taxpayer money before she was legally authorized to do so.

In a letter dated May 10, 2010, to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, Combs said her agency would release the state money to race promoters by the end of this month. In June, the World Motorsport Council set a provisional race date of June 17, 2012, for the first race, though that date is not expected to be finalized until this fall.

“That race isn’t planned for June 17," Aleshire said today. “And that date was suggested in order to clear the way for a check to be written by the end of July as Susan Combs promised to do last year."

Aleshire said plaintiffs decided to withdraw the lawsuit because they could not prove that the race date will change. It can be refiled up until Combs cuts a check to Austin F1 promoters.

Austin lawyer Mike McKetta, who is representing Circuit of the Americas, said that the case never belonged in court.

“This is a good example of a trial judge recognizing that some matters remain in the hands of other public officials instead of the courts," McKetta said. “This is a decision for the Legislature, for the city of Austin, and not for any of the 10 million or more taxpayers to decide that they will have a judge determine it."

The Austin City Council last week endorsed the race, a legal step necessary to qualify local promoters for the trust fund money.

“The Comptroller’s office has followed the law as it is laid out in statute and administrative rules, and we are pleased with dismissal of the lawsuit," spokesman R.J. DeSilva said in a statement. “F1 is a world-renowned event that will spur jobs and economic development and will benefit the city of Austin and Texas." The Statesman

Leave a Reply