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Slay, Shrewsbury differ on Century Building lawsuit

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Mayor Francis Slay (r) and Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury (l) at this year's State of the City speech. (UPI file photo/Bill Greenblatt)

By Tom Weber & Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis, MO. – St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury have different opinions over whether the city should sue two of its citizens who had sued the city to keep the Century Building from being demolished.

Slay says the legal action against the opponents of the Century Building demolition will help avert what he calls "frivolous lawsuits" in the future.

Two years ago Roger Plackemeier and Marcia Behrendt sued the developers of the Old Post Office project, as well as the city and state.

The pair tried to stop plans to tear down the Century to make way for a parking garage for the post office. But they lost.

Now, Mayor Slay says a new suit by the former defendants seeking a million dollars in damages will send a message to future litigants.

"People need to know that before you file a lawsuit, you ought to make sure you have a colorable claim to pursue, not just for the purpose of delay," Slay said.

Slay says the city joined the suit, which he supports, because Plackemeier and Behrendt caused unnecessary delays and unexpected costs in the Old Post Office project.

"It's not the fact that they opposed this is the reason for the litigation. The reason for this litigation was they took their opposition to a point where they engaged in frivilous litigation, frivilous lawsuit."

SHREWSBURY REACTION

But the President of the St. Louis Board of Alderman says it's "absolutely silly" and "reckless" for the city to be suing two of its own citizens over a building that's now gone.

Aldermanic President James Shrewsbury says the two didn't do anything wrong.

"They exercised their constitutional right, they filed a lawsuit, they lost." Shrewsbury said. "They did not damage anyone economically, and I think this is just petty and vindictive."

Shrewsbury also says it's a waste of taxpayer money to go after the two downtown loft owners because city wouldn't gain anything by winning in court.

"These people don't have any money; they don't have any insurance; they're not a huge corporation. I just think the city is making a mistake in getting involved with this; it creates hard feelings."

Shrewsbury and Slay both sit on the Board of Estimate, which has to approve city spending.

It's not clear whether any spending for lawyers' fees or other costs related to the suit would ever need the board's approval to be paid.

But if they did, Shrewsbury says he'd vote against spending the money.

The Century Building came down last year to make room for a parking garage that will serve the Old Post Office. Webster University and the St. Louis Business-Journal are among the entities that have committed to moving into the Old Post Office, once it's rehabbed.

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