Any chance of an uncontested settlement over the M.B. Miller County Pier lease is long-gone. Thursday the county kicked Richard Lipton and his Beach Walk Enterprises off of the pier property.
Lipton countered with a breach of contract lawsuit. Friday each side leveled more accusations. This heated debate gets uglier every minute as Bay County officials attempt to take over this pier. One of the main hang-ups this building and what renovations need to take place.
The county would like to take back the pier but in a letter from Beach Walk Enterprises attorneys the company says it has no intention of leaving and says the county has no right to take over the property, but Bay County Commissioner George Gainer says that's not the whole story.
"This is not a lease. A lot of people are under the impression that this is a lease, this is not a lease. This is a management contract and we are not happy with the management out there on our asset," says George Gainer.
Richard Lipton of Beachwalk Enterprises, the company that runs the pier, says the county is making things up.
"The truth will come out. I will personally as far as my company aggressively defend any claim of fraud. There was no fraud," says Richard Lipton.
However, Gainer says this is just another case of private companies trying to squeeze money out of the county.
"But I think at some point in time this county has got to day that a contract is a contract. We had a management contract with Mr. Lipton and Mr. Lipton didn't live up to what he was supposed to and as far as I'm concerned that's the way we're going to run Bay County."
County officials say they've had many problems with the pier under Beach Walk Management. One of the most egregious being peep holes drilled from the janitor’s closet into stalls in the women’s restroom. We found these holes filled in Friday; however, pier staff says both county and pier employees have access to the locked closet and anyone could have drilled the holes.
Lipton says there is an ulterior motive behind all the legal action.
"Commissioner Gainer wants to break the contract. I'm not surprised by any allegations he makes."
But Bay County commission chairman George Gainer says he has no designs on the county pier, but he says he is concerned about what Lipton had planned for the area. The county alleges Lipton tried to use the pier for his own personal gain, sub-leasing parts and renting watercraft on the property.
Gainer says none of that was allowed under the terms of Lipton's management contract. County staff hopes to move their people in to run the pier as soon as this weekend.