County to pay $15,000 for leasing office space below market rates

September 19, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

County officials have agreed to pay $15,000 as part of a settlement with two Annapolis property managers who accused the county of luring their tenants to its Heritage Office Complex by offering space at below-market rates.

The county, which insisted in the consent decree that it did nothing wrong, also has agreed not to lease space at the office complex in Riva to new commercial tenants. It can, however, lease to other government agencies.

The settlement has led county officials to change their minds about selling two of the four buildings it owns in the Heritage Complex.

"The administration does not plan to sell these buildings," said Judson P. Garrett Jr., the county's attorney.

Some space will be reserved for Circuit Court offices as a new courthouse is built in Annapolis, and the county may pursue state government offices as tenants, Mr. Garrett said.

A suit filed in May by the managers, Joseph Conte and Nicholas J. Roper, along with the Anne Arundel Taxpayers Association, cited the county's lease with Environmental Resources Management, which was formerly a tenant in a building owned by Mr. Conte. The action asked the court to void that lease and sought damages for both property owners.

The suit also sought to void a contract with the Rouse Office Management Inc., the county's leasing agent, which it charged was reached without going through the competitive bidding process required by law.

"By the terms of this settlement, the taxpayers have forced the county to do in the future what it should have been doing all along," said Robert C. Schaeffer, president of the Taxpayers Association.

County officials have admitted they were aggressively pursuing new tenants to make the two buildings more attractive to potential buyers. The county was leasing space at $15 per square foot.

But John R. Greiber Jr., the lawyer for Mr. Conte and Mr. Roper, said the county's own Economic Development division had data listing the market rate for office space in that area at $18.50 per square foot.

As part of the settlement, Mr. Roper and Mr. Conte have agreed not to challenge the lease between Environmental Resources Management and the county.

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