City attorney Doug Haynie said the city will seek to have the lawsuit, filed Sept. 24 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, dismissed.
“This lawsuit is basically a rewrite of every suit Mr. Jaraysi has filed against the city of Marietta,” Haynie said. “There are only two differences. One, it’s in federal court instead of state court, and No. 2, he has sued Chuck Clay along with the city of Marietta, so we start all over again in a new ballpark.”
In the suit, which seeks unspecified damages, Jaraysi’s new attorney, Nelson Tyrone III of Atlanta, writes that: “On or about December 12, 2005, Defendant Clay personally telephoned Mr. Jaraysi to inquire about purchasing the property (on South Marietta Parkway near Interstate 75). When Mr. Jaraysi declined interest in selling, Defendant Clay insisted Mr. Jaraysi would sell the property, implying an ability to influence decision making on the basis of his previous professional appointments and relationship with the city.”
Tyrone goes on to write that the day after that conversation, the city issued Jaraysi a stop work order. Jaraysi said he hired Tyrone for this suit because he specializes in federal cases.
Among the threats Clay is reported to have made to Jaraysi are that, “He would acquire the property one way or another,” that “nobody says no to him,” that “Mr. Jaraysi would be sorry,” and that “he previously (was) the head of the ‘commission’ and a senatorial candidate,” Tyrone writes.
Clay is a former county commissioner, state senator and Georgia GOP chairman.
The Jaraysi affair dates to 2005, when the city granted him a permit to build an 8,700-square-foot wedding hall. The city halted construction on the building in December 2005 upon discovering the structure being built was 24,993 square feet.
Cobb Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs granted the city permission to demolish the building in July 2010 and issued a restraining order barring Jaraysi from interfering with the demolition after he failed to live up to his pledge to her to finish the building. Jaraysi appealed to the state Court of Appeals, but the appellate court sided with the city. Jaraysi then appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.
Haynie said he doesn’t expect a hearing in federal court for a few months. Meantime, the city is waiting on Grubbs to decide whether to award the city $130,000 in attorney fees stemming from his previous battle with the city.
“I don’t think I’ve even discussed it with Chuck Clay, so trying to drag Chuck in here makes no sense,” Haynie said of Jaraysi’s latest lawsuit. “Now Chuck will have to represent himself or hire a lawyer to represent him. The city could not represent him, but the city is going to file a very quick motion to dismiss. I mean, this has been going on in Cobb Superior Court for about seven years. There’s nothing new here at all. It’s a waste of the city’s time and the court’s time to have to go through this again.”
One of Clay’s firms, Brock Clay Government Affairs, has represented the Parkway Center buildings adjacent to Jaraysi’s Nazareth Plaza strip mall.
Clay said Wednesday that he is puzzled to be named in the complaint.
“His issues were both self-inflicted and economically imposed, certainly not by the city of Marietta, Chuck Clay, Parkway Center or anybody else,” Clay said. “My interaction with Mr. Jaraysi is little to nil and my involvement in planning and zoning is none.”
Clay said he never tried to purchase Jaraysi’s property, nor did he never make a threat to do so.
“I have a vague recollection because (an adjacent hotel), there was some discussion on the part of the hotel to see whether there was some interest in buying or selling the property, but I never had any involvement. I’m not a real estate agent, I’m not a broker, wasn’t involved, but I do remember — at least my understanding of it was — he declined to do so, which was certainly his right to do so, and I don’t think the issue ever came up again. I certainly had neither a client or an interest in whether or not that property was bought, sold or remained with Mr. Jaraysi,” Clay said. “That’s his issue, not mine.”
In representing Parkway Center, Clay said his Brock Clay Government Affairs agency was simply keeping them apprised of the progress or lack thereof of Jaraysi’s stalled building efforts.
“They are the only Class A office space in Marietta,” Clay said. “To them, it’s pretty significant when there’s a half-empty building or a half-built building at your front entrance and then you’re trying to lease space in a very, very difficult market. So their interest was simply ensuring that the area looked as good as possible, and whatever was agreed to would move it forward so there would not be an empty shell sitting there.”
Jaraysi would not disclose what amount he was seeking in damages from the city and Clay when asked by the Journal on Thursday.
“I did nothing wrong to deserve the building to be torn down,” Jaraysi said. “I’ve been forced to tear it down. It’s not my choice. You will not spend over $3 million on a great building then tear it down. No, you won’t do that.”
Jaraysi said he had changed attorneys because Tyrone specializes in federal cases.
Mayor Steve Tumlin defended the city’s action to see the building razed.
“He has a right to express his opinion, but it’s one I don’t see the merits, especially the way the court ruled,” Tumlin said.
As for Clay, Tumlin said he’d never seen any bad behavior on his part.
“He and his firm were advocates for one of the groups around there, but there was no conspiracy, no nothing other than somebody’s right to express their opinion, and the only opinion they ever expressed was over the eyesore,” Tumlin said. “If (Jaraysi) wanted to protect that $3 million investment, he would have been better suited to do what he told us he would and followed through with it, being what he applied for.”