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Bengals need 900k from taxpayers to pay for FieldTurf

Phil Heimlich and Todd Portune have been trying to sue the Cincinnati Bengals and the NFL because, what he claims, is an awful lease that was strong armed by the team and league. So the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners joined a county taxpayer in an anti-trust lawsuit against the Bengals and the NFL. Heimlich claims the Bengals lease is "one of the worst, if not the worst, from a taxpayer point of view." But he didn't just single out the Bengals; it's league-wide apparently. "The reason stadium leases in many other NFL cities were also bad deals is because other NFL teams engaged in the same unlawful conduct."

So how did it start?

It was (County Commissioner Todd) Portune who originally filed suit against the Bengals as an individual taxpayer. When conflict-of-interest questions arose regarding his position as a commissioner, community activist Carrie Davis took his place as lead plaintiff.

In 1996, Hamilton County taxpayers approved a one-half-cent sales tax increase. The increase would be used to finance the $450 million stadium -- the Commissioners, not the Bengals nor the NFL, signed the lease at their own will. Even head coach Marvin Lewis said of the lawsuit, "The one thing people of Cincinnati don't know about is this lawsuit that's hanging over our heads hinders us." Commissioner Todd Portune and Attorney Stan Chesley rebuked Lewis' comments saying the team was using the popular head coach to sway public opinion.

In Feburary, this year, U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spiegel threw out the case claiming "the suit was not filed within the four-year statute of limitations". Spiegel even went on to say, to "be sure, the lease that Hamilton County enjoys with the Bengals is highly favorable -- perhaps egregiously so -- to the Bengals."

Pat Dewine asked his fellow commissioners not to appeal the decision. "While the lease that was negotiated with the Bengals has numerous problems from a county standpoint, these lease provisions were agreed to by the previous board of commissioners." A month after the federal anti-trust lawsuit was thrown out by Spiegel, the County Commissioners voted to appeal.

Now the Bengals are asking for reimbursement for FieldTurf that was installed in 2004 that will cost Hamilton County taxpayers, roughly, $900,000. Phil Heimlich has a "I told you so" moment. "This is another example of how unfair this (lease) is to the taxpayers of Hamilton County," Commissioner Phil Heimlich said. "There's no limit to the number of gadgets they can buy and charge to the taxpayer."

At taxpayers' expense, county to reimburse Bengals for turf [Mercury News]
Antitrust suit against Bengals thrown out [BizJournal]
Bengals disappointed in County appeal []
Judge dismisses lawsuit against Bengals [NFL]
County to appeal ruling in Bengals case [NFL]
Bengals agree to mediation [Cincy Post]
Heimlich Op-Ed Explains Bengals Decision [Phil Heimlich]
County Responds To Coach Lewis' Comments On 9News [WCPO]