ATLANTIC CITY - Donald Trump is mad that Atlantic City scrapped a $34 million deal to settle disputed taxes on his three casinos.
He's also glad they did.
The real estate tycoon told The Associated Press today that new Atlantic City Mayor Scott Evans' decision this week to kill the deal indicates the city can't be trusted.
"We had a done deal," Trump said. "When you make a signed deal - signed, sealed and passed by the City Council - and you break it, that sends out a very bad signal to the investment community about Atlantic City." But at the same time, Trump said he's actually glad Evans blocked the deal because he thinks he can get a better one in court.
The deal, approved Nov. 1 by the City Council and signed by then-acting Mayor William "Speedy" Marsh, covered 19 tax appeals the company filed disputing the city's assessment of what Trump's properties were actually worth.
"I think it's a lousy settlement," Trump said. "I think we should have gotten much more. We'd be better off going back into court." Evans said Trump is half right.
"I agree with him - it is a lousy deal and we should go back to court, because the city will get a better deal there," Evans said. Invoking the real estate tycoon's best-selling book, Evans added, "This is 'The Art of The Deal,' Trump at his best. You need people who can stand up to him." The settlement calls for a $12 million cash payment for 2007, and then $4 million per year in tax credits for 2009 to 2011 and $5 million per year in credits for 2012 and 2013.
Atlantic County would contribute $5 million to the settlement as repayment for the proportional tax money the city had turned over to the county.
The pact touched off yet another round of controversy at City Hall, with critics claiming it was overly generous. Marsh said he reluctantly signed the deal because he feared the city could have lost between $60 million to $93 million had the matter gone to trial.
But Evans blocked the $12 million payment this week, saying it was hastily approved and adding he wants to learn more about the agreement before deciding whether it can go through.
He said today the city does not plan to pay Trump anything without being ordered to by a judge.
"That's off the table right now," he said.
Trump officials have asked a court to force the city to pay, and the city is seeking more time to weigh its options. A decision could come within the next few days, Evans said.
Trump is chairman and the largest stockholder of Trump Entertainment Resorts, which operates the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, and Trump Marina Hotel Casino.