Goodman biased in Parc Centrale case, judge finds

Ruling paves the way for developer to seek damages from the city

A judge found City Council Member Lisa Goodman’s bias against a proposed Loring Park development was unfair to its developer, Brad Hoyt of Wayzata.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Steven Aldritch’s ruling, released today, paves the way for Hoyt to seek damages against the city. Hoyt’s attorney previously has said $23.6 million was lost when the proposal for the 21-story Parc Central residential development was rejected by the City Council in 2004.

Aldritch found that Goodman (Ward 7) worked against the Parc Centrale project at a time when she was supposed to remain unbiased. Her opinions may have swayed Council members, who when considering development proposals often defer to the Council member in whose ward the project is located, he added.

Aldritch said evidence for both claims was found in a body of evidence not included in the official city record on the Parc Centrale project. In his ruling, he cited emails uncovered by a computer expert hired by Hoyt’s defense team.

City Council members are required to remain impartial during the “quasi-judicial” process of reviewing development proposals. But emails to constituents included phrases like: “… if we want to stop the high-rise we should stick to the points the planning commission will evaluate in making the decision.”

In other emails, Goodman acknowledged that her work on the council’s Zoning and Planning Committee was a quasi-judicial process, and that she could lose her vote if she showed bias.

Aldritch rejected two other claims made by Hoyt. He affirmed that the city acted appropriately when it rejected several applications for variances and conditional use permits.

City Attorney Susan Segal released this statement late Wednesday:

“We are pleased that the Court recognized both that the City had an appropriate factual basis to deny the Plaintiff’s application and that the proposed project was inconsistent with the City’s Downtown 2010 Plan.

We are disappointed the Court ruled against the City as to its process in connection with the application and are reviewing the decision and analyzing its implications.”

Attorney William Skolnick, who represented Hoyt, was not immediately available for comment Wednesday, nor was Goodman.

Aldritch will review the evidence for damages when the case returns to court Sept. 29–30. He has 90 days to issue a ruling.