State appellate court ruling means Pauldine remains a co-defendant in fight over historic building
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The state Appellate Court in Rochester ruled in Port City developer Tom Millar’s favor this week, rekindling the dispute centered on a nearly decade-old contract and the rightful ownership of the historic Cahill Building.
Millar’s lawsuit contends city officials improperly voided a contract to purchase the Cahill Building, after Millar and partners had paid a $10,000 down payment, over illegitimate financing concerns before selling the building to Pauldine. Last week’s state Appellate Court decision reversed an earlier county court decision that removed local developer Anthony Pauldine from the lawsuit.
Following several decisions, dismissals and appeals, the lawsuit — initially filed by Millar against the city in 2014 — is likely to return to Oswego County Court where nearly five years later the facts of the case could be finally argued.
“My partners and I are just happy that we finally get to move onto trial after years of motions and delays,” Millar said Monday in response to the state Appellate Court’s Thursday ruling.
He declined to comment further on the ongoing litigation.
The years-long battle over the Cahill Building started with an April 2013 contract between the city, Millar and associated parties for the purchase of the property. Millar claims city officials breached the $200,000 purchase contract before eventually conveying a property deed to Pauldine in July 2016.
Former Oswego County Supreme Court Judge James McCarthy first dismissed the case because Millar’s suit did not include the original purchasing partners. The original purchasing partners then signed onto the suit, and an amended complaint named Pauldine — who by then had purchased the building from the city and commenced construction— and his Camelot Lodge LLC as an additional defendant in April 2017.
Pauldine and his attorneys sought to have the case dismissed in county court, and eventually were successful. Millar, however, appealed that decision to the state Appellate Court, which ruled last week to reverse the decision and reinstate the claims against Camelot.
The dispute between Millar and the city of Oswego appears to be heading back to county court to be argued, but it’s not yet clear if Pauldine would be a part of the litigation or not. Pauldine has the right to appeal the state Appellate Court’s decision to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals in Albany.
Pauldine said Monday no decision had been made yet on how to proceed, but noted his legal team would meet this week to weigh his options. He said the decision would likely come later this week.
The Court of Appeals could uphold the state Appellate Court decision and Pauldine would remain on the lawsuit as it heads back to county court, or it could agree with the county court ruling and dismiss the claims against the local developer and his Camelot Lodge LLC.
Regardless of whether or not Pauldine remains a defendant, the lawsuit against the city would be allowed to move forward.
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said the ruling didn’t have a significant impact from the city’s perspective, calling it an unfortunate delay. Barlow commended Pauldine for doing a “great job restoring the (Cahill) building and bringing it back to life.”
“He did the right thing, did what he said he was going to do with the building, which is more than Mr. Millar can say,” Barlow said. “And that’s why we still obviously support (Pauldine) and thank him for his good work.”
City Attorney Kevin Caraccioli said the city did not take an active position in the dispute at the state Appellate Court, feeling it was Pauldine’s motion and appeal to argue.
“We were simply waiting to see what would happen before taking a more affirmative position or defense of this action,” he said. “We do not believe that Mr. Millar, or any of the other plaintiffs, are entitled to specific performance — in other words, getting the Cahill Building.”
Millar lost a previous case related to the contract dispute because Fowler Gardella Construction, a party to the initial joint venture to purchase the building with Millar, wasn’t listed as a plaintiff.
In a June 2017 ruling, Oswego County Court Judge Norman Seiter Jr. said the lawsuit could move forward, noting the “facts weren’t reached” in previous litigation. Seiter said an earlier ruling dealt with the issue of standing and joint ventures and not the merits or the case.
Seiter at the time also ruled the plaintiff’s remedy should be limited to money damages between the parties involved in the underlying contract.