Developer Carl Dranoff asked a New Jersey judge on Thursday to toss a lawsuit filed by Camden over his Victor Building apartment project, accusing the South Jersey city of pursuing an unjust vendetta against him with a legal action that stands in violation of state law.
In a brief accompanying Dranoff’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit alleging $9 million in dodged taxes from the Victor apartments, which was filed in Camden County Superior Court, lawyers for the developer portray Camden’s complaint as an attempted “end-run” around a suit he had filed against the city months earlier.
“Camden’s rush to file this lawsuit in this court — when there is another lawsuit pending in federal court involving the same contracts and transaction — is proof positive that its motives are purely nefarious,” Dranoff’s lawyers wrote in the brief. “If Camden was sincere in its purported belief that [Dranoff] had somehow failed to pay his fair share of taxes … and was not actually pursuing a vendetta against [him], it would not have filed this lawsuit.”
Dranoff declined to comment on the motion, saying the brief speaks for itself. A Camden city spokesman did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Superior Court Judge Steven J. Polansky wrote in a Friday filing that Dranoff’s motion will be decided Jan. 11.
Dranoff and Camden struck a 2002 deal — part of the city’s urban-revitalization efforts — that exempted the developer from property taxes on the 349-unit apartment Victor Building project for 30 years in exchange for an agreement to pay a much-reduced “service charge."
Dranoff alleged in a complaint filed in federal court in June that Camden officials were in breach of a contractual obligation to transfer the tax break as part of a since-lapsed purchase agreement this year between the developer and Denver-based Apartment Investment & Management Co., or Aimco. Judge Noel L. Hillman of U.S. District Court in Camden is reviewing motions filed as part of that suit.
Camden followed up on Monday with a suit of its own that accused Dranoff of scheming to avoid paying what it described as “excess profit” payments owed under the terms of the 2002 deal.
Dranoff called the allegations “false and malicious" in a statement earlier this week.
In filings this week, Dranoff’s lawyers cast the city’s lawsuit as violating the state’s “entire controversy doctrine,” a legal principle holding that disputes should be handled one court case at a time, since it overlaps with his earlier-filed litigation.
“Camden is attempting to make an end-run around the federal lawsuit in violation of long-standing New Jersey law,” the lawyers wrote. “Besides smearing a well-respected and dedicated developer’s good name and punishing him despite all that he has done, Camden’s lawsuit has also served to waste the parties’ and the court’s time and resources.”