KS Appeals Court Rejects Heartland Park Vote

In this photo provided by NHRA, Funny Car driver Johnny Gray wins the NHRA Kansas Nationals auto race, Sunday, May 19, 2013, in Topeka, Kan. (AP Photo/NHRA, Marc Gewertz)
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW)-- The Kansas Court of Appeals Wednesday ruled Topeka's purchase of Heartland Park can move forward without a public vote.

The Appeals Court Decision favors the City Of Topeka and Jayhawk Racing over petitioner Chris Imming.

Imming spent 2 months gathering support for his petition to force a public vote--collecting nearly 3,590 valid signatures.

Shawnee County District Court ruled against Imming trying to stop the deal so he filed his appeal last December-that delayed the city going forward to acquire the racetrack and issue STAR bonds to pay for it. Heartland Park was late on payments to CoreFirst Bank and Trust and CoreFirst could have foreclosed but opted to wait for Imming's appeal.

Even though the ruling did not go in Imming's favor, his attorney, Tuck Duncan, said the Appeals Court supported several of Imming's issues and Duncan says he plans to file an appeal with the Kansas Supreme Court in the next 30 days.

"It didn't go in our favor but nonetheless, it's clear that it is really a victory without honor. We think that the Supreme Court will find that we are correct," says Duncan.

In its 22 page ruling, The Kansas Court of Appeals favored several aspects of petitioner Imming's case, including that city manager Jim Colson did not have the right to file a lawsuit against the petition process.

"The city wrongly filed this action by the city manager and then didn't have the courage to vote publicly on whether or not to ratify!" says Duncan.

However, since Imming filed a counterclaim seeking an order from city council to repeal or force a public vote--the appeals court said Imming's petition was the wrong format to successfully challenge the issue of STAR bonds.

"I wasn't surprised at the ruling. We were glad that the Court of Appeals acted so quickly. We are of course happy to see the result," said City Attorney Chad Sublet. Sublet says the next step is to put Heartland Park back in front of city council at its Tuesday meeting.

City Council member Karen Hiller says it is vital to keep Heartland Park in the Capital City otherwise there could be consequences.

"If racing ends, we could owe 10 million dollars. The taxpayers could owe 10 million dollars with nothing to show for it," says Hiller.

"This is a very, very important matter to the citizens of Topeka," says Duncan.

The Kansas Legislative Post Audit committee released information saying Topeka's plan to issue 5 million dollars in STAR bonds to acquire Heartland Park falls within boundaries of Kansas law.