Lawmakers reject bid to drop Nixon from stadium lawsuit

Gov. Jay Nixon should remain a defendant in a lawsuit filed last month challenging plans to build a new NFL stadium in St. Louis, the six lawmakers who filed the suit told the court this week.

Last week, Attorney General Chris Koster's staff asked the Cole County circuit court to remove Nixon from the case, arguing plaintiffs didn't offer any substantial claims against Nixon.

But state Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, the lawyer who filed it, countered in a filing this week that the original petition adequately alleged the governor's use of taxpayer funds for an illegal purpose.

"While suggesting impotence to this Court," Barnes wrote, "Gov. Nixon has been busy blustering in public that he's in control and that this lawsuit will not slow him down."

Still, Barnes admitted in the two-page response, the original lawsuit "could be improved with additional allegations setting forth Gov. Nixon's actions to spend taxpayer money leading an illegal enterprise."

So the six lawmakers filed an amended suit, at the same time they filed the response to Nixon's motion to be dropped from the case.

What was a nine-page lawsuit filed May 27 now is a 24-page suit, again naming Nixon and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority as the defendants.

The lawmakers still want the court to issue a declaratory judgment and injunction stopping Nixon from spending any more taxpayer funds and from continuing efforts for "an illegal construction of a new NFL stadium in St. Louis."

The six plaintiffs remain the same: Barnes and fellow Reps. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis County, Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles, and Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, and state Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph.

As in the original lawsuit, they argue the 1991 law and agreements that led the state and St. Louis City and County to help with building the Edward Jones Dome specified the money could be used only for a stadium "adjacent to" the city's Cervantes Convention Center, now known as the America's Center.

But the proposed new stadium would be built next to the Mississippi River, they said, across Interstate 44 and about a block east of the convention center-dome complex.

In addition, they said, the proposed funding plans for the new stadium would refinance the bonds sold to build the Jones Dome two decades ago, and those bonds "may not be refinanced in a manner which would increase the principal and interest owed."

The revised lawsuit again argues the proposed changes would violate the 1991 law that limited bonding debt to 50 years, or 2041, but in "mid-March 2015, at Gov. Nixon's direction, the Missouri Department of Economic Development outlined a funding plan to extend bond payments through FY (fiscal year) 2048, at a rate of $12 million per year."

A counsel status hearing has been set for July 27.