Chipley resident Bobby Padgett says the City of Chipley "acted unethically" in the handling of the purchase and subsequent reselling of the now defunct Falling Waters Golf Course.
Padgett sold the course to the city in 2005 for $750,000. According to the warranty deed - which lists Padgett's then business, Metalwood, Inc. as seller - the city agreed to grant Padgett and his family free lifetime golf as part of the purchase agreement.
"This agreement was part of the sale price negotiated," said Padgett. "(Then-City Administrator) Jim Morris was handling the purchase for the city and assured us that the city would have the golf course opened back up within a year."
"Without the negotiated agreement of free golf for life for all of my family, the price of the golf course would have been $25,000 more," he added. "This would have added up a lot less than if we had received the free golf as noted. We are looking to the city to rise to its responsibility and cover the balance owed to me."
Morris states the deal was made honestly, and that no promises to re-open were made. Currently, the only facility in operation on the property is a community church.
The city sold the still-unopened course to Roland Vines of Bay County a few years later and asserts that the agreement made in the 2005 sale transferred in the new transaction, becoming the responsibility of Vines.
"There is no disagreement that the deed to the City of Chipley stipulates (Padgett and his family) would receive lifetime golf for free as part of the purchase and sale of the course to the City of Chipley," wrote City Attorney Michelle Jordan in a November 14 letter to Padgett. "That stipulation passed on to the next owner of the golf course, Mr. Vines."
Under Florida law, agreements between a buyer and seller not reduced to writing in the deed are "merged" into the deed and extinguished. Jordan states this is because the deed is the final agreement between a buyer and seller, and the terms parties intend to continue beyond the closing of the property are "important enough" that they be specifically identified in the final agreement.
She added that the statute of limitations was exhausted on the transaction in 2010 and advised Padgett there is no evidence the purchase price would have been $25,000 higher had the city not agreed to offer lifetime golf.
"Although the city understood that Mr. Vines' intention was to re-open the golf course and develop it, he has not done so," said Jordan. "The city regrets that the golf course has not been re-opened but does not feel (Padgett) is owed any additional monies."
Padgett, who has sought counsel from attorney Kristi Novonglosky of Chipley, says the city did not disclose the lifetime golf stipulation to Vines at the time of the new sale.
"Mr. Vines said he never received any information that this was in the deed," he said. "Besides that, Mr. Vines, Mr. Morris, and myself should have met, and Jim should have advised me that my agreement with the city would be transferred to Mr. Vines. At that point, Mr. Vines would have had the opportunity to accept or reject taking this responsibility from the city … I think it should be illegal to re-issue an agreement without all parties notified."
Vines did not return a call for comment, but a letter from his attorney, John L. Gioiello of Panama City, to Novonglosky states neither the city or Vines appear responsible for the agreement.
"It appears Metalwood, Inc. reserved for itself, as seller, certain rights in the original deed, including certain lifetime rights for (the Padgett family) - either free green fees and/or free membership - to 'the golf course located on said property'," said Gioiello. "Likewise, the City of Chipley reserved for itself, as seller, the same rights. At no time were any of the Padgetts a party to either of these transactions. It appears the Padgett family was the beneficiary of the largesse of Metalwood, Inc., which unfortunately ceased to exist as of September 2006 … they were aware at the time of the conveyance that the 'golf course located on said property' did not exist."
Gioiello went on to stress that while the golf course never re-opened, the owner "maintains a church on the property" and he has "confirmed that all members of the Padgett family are welcome to lifetime memberships at the church and full use of all church facilities."
Meanwhile, Padgett says the city's failure to compensate him for the original deal sends the wrong message.
"They are presenting loopholes to get out of honoring they're agreement," he said. "If a city water customer doesn't honor their obligation to pay their bill, the city won't hesitate to cut off their water. It's hypocritical to not hold themselves to the same standards."