THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES, mired in a legal battle with the city over an $8 million debt, now claim that former Mayor Street agreed to settle the dispute quietly for less than $1 million as part of the deal to build Lincoln Financial Field.
Mayor Nutter's staff, which learned of the secret deal in October, says Street didn't have the authority to approve it without a review by the city Law Department.
But Tom Leonard, an attorney for the Eagles, countered yesterday: "I don't know how they're going to win that one. The mayor makes deals all the time."
Leonard said the Eagles want to stick to the deal, which was never finalized.
"We are not willing to pay money for something that was settled," he added.
Street did not respond yesterday to a request for comment.
Ken Trujillo, city solicitor at the time, declined to comment.
The Eagles on March 20 filed details of the deal in court, including sworn affidavits from team owner Jeffrey Lurie, team president Joe Banner and an attorney who represented the city.
The Eagles and the city have been fighting for eight years. The city wanted $8 million for Eagles skybox revenue from the 2000 and 2001 seasons at Veterans Stadium. The Eagles refused to pay, blaming the city for $8 million in lost revenue after turf problems caused a 2001 pre-season game to be canceled. The city sued the Eagles in 2004.
As Nutter steers the city through an economic crisis - closing a $1 billion gap in the five-year financial plan late last year, only to see another $1.4 billion deficit appear this year - the Eagles and their debt have become a popular whipping boy for angry residents.
About 50 people protested outside Lurie's Wynnewood home last month, singing "Pay, Eagles, Pay" to the tune of the team's fight song.
The Eagles are asking a Common Pleas Court judge to enforce the previously undisclosed deal with Street.
The team claims the city's failure to live up to the deal, plus the 2004 lawsuit, caused "the Eagles to expend time, money and legal fees, and perhaps worse of all, exposing the Eagles to precisely the type of negative publicity the Eagles sought to avoid when they insisted on settling the [dispute] as part of the stadium deal."
Dean Adler, an attorney who represented the city in stadium negotiations, filed an affidavit for the team, confirming that Street had agreed to the deal. Adler added that no specific amount was ever agreed upon.
Adler, through his receptionist, declined to comment yesterday.
Lurie, in his affidavit, said the deal called for the team to pay the city less than $1 million. Adler and developer Bill Rouse, who has since died, "informed us that [Street] did not want to include the resolution of the [dispute] in the written documentation of the stadium deal," Lurie said.
Banner, in his affidavit, said Adler and Rouse had assured the team that it "could rely on the mayor's promise" even though the settlement was not put into writing. "The Street administration, up until its final days, continued to assure us that they would finalize the settlement without additional litigation," Banner added.
The Eagles complain in the filings that Nutter's staff claimed no knowledge of the deal and challenged Street's authority to approve it, "even going so far as to disparage an agreement reached with teams of lawyers and officials in attendance as a somehow suspect 'secret' deal."
Leonard said the Eagles were in regular contact with Street's staff, which repeatedly assured the team that the deal was solid. Nothing came of those assurances.
The team then waited until Nutter settled into office to resume its discussion about the deal, Leonard said.
"We don't want to fight with the city of Philadelphia," Leonard said. "We consider the city our partner and we want to be a good corporate citizen. We just want the city to live up to its word." *