Secret deal between city & Eagles?

April 1, 2009 9:08:56 PM PDT
It's a matter of he said, he said in the fight between the City of Philadelphia and the Eagles' organization. Veterans Stadium is just a memory, but it's at the center of a multi-million dollar dispute that is alive and well, and, an apparent secret deal between the city and the Eagles is now out in the open and headed for court.

"I am absolutely in opposition to that proposal, whatever it was, I don't know what it was cause you can't read it anywhere because it doesn't exist," Mayor Michael Nutter said.

Nutter slammed the latest move by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to avoid paying a long-disputed $8-million debt claim by City Hall. The fight goes back to 2001, when the city demanded $8-million for Eagles skybox revenue at Veterans Stadium. Back then, the Eagles refused to pay as they blamed the city for $8-million in lost revenue after turf problems caused an '01 pre-season game to be cancelled.

In sworn statements filed in court, Lurie and Eagles' president Joe Banner say they, long ago, entered into a secret deal with then Mayor John Street to settle the battle quietly for less than $1-million, as part of the deal to build Lincoln Financial Field.

Mayor Nutter calls this a Hail Mary pass in the fourth quarter.

"Apparently, in all the time, up to the last fall, there apparently been no mention, no discussion, in any court document, in any filing anywhere or even a conversation that mentioned that there was some previous secret agreement," Mayor Nutter said.

The Eagles lawyer says: "Everyone who was in that room including the city's lawyer agrees the issue was settled?there is a binding agreement and the next person in line cannot say it is not binding."

"I'm really astounded that a deal of this size was not committed to writing," legal expert Llyod George Parry said.

Action News found no Eagles fan siding with billionaire Jeff Lurie today.

"I think the city has to stick to what they're owed. I think it's criminal that the Eagles have held back the $8-million all these years," Barry Knowles of South Philadelphia said.

Former mayor John Street was categorical in stating that while there had been numerous discussions about the $8-million dollars the city says the Eagles owed, he never agreed to them paying anything less than that.

"I can tell you I never agreed to any amount," Street said.

He said there was no secret deal.

"Well, if we had cut a secret deal, then I would have done a secret deal, we didn't cut a secret deal, there was no deal," Street said.

Street does point out that his administration sued the eagles and got an $8-million judgment against them that stood until the day he left office, but Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie is standing by his claim.

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