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Fight over August Wilson Center triggers series of legal skirmishes

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Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, 11:00 a.m.

The hotel developer seeking to buy the debt-ridden August Wilson Center for African American Culture is asking a judge to quash subpoenas from Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority.

On Friday, New York-based 980 Liberty Partners will urge Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lawrence O'Toole to issue a protective order excusing the developer from the URA's requests for 30 categories of documents and 49 topics of testimony.

The URA, which opposes the sale of the Downtown building for $9.5 million to 980 Liberty Partners, made the requests to prepare for a Sept. 29 trial to determine whether deeds and related documents block 980 from buying the Downtown property.

The developer argued the information sought by the URA is irrelevant to that trial and involves confidential and proprietary materials.

The developer's push for a protective order excusing it from the URA's subpoenas follows similar requests by the URA, state Attorney General's Office and local foundations to avoid disclosing information and documents sought by the center's court-appointed receiver, Judith K. Fitzgerald, and Dollar Bank, to which the center owes more than $8 million.

On Monday, O'Toole granted those protective orders to the attorney general and the coalition of Pittsburgh-area foundations. The judge advised the receiver to hold off on its request to depose Kevin Acklin, chairman of the URA's board of directors and Mayor Bill Peduto's chief of staff.

The authority, attorney general and foundations contend the sale to 980 Liberty Partners would violate deed restrictions and diminish the center and its mission. They want the center, built with at least $17.4 million in taxpayer money and $20 million from foundations, preserved as a “public asset.”

Natasha Lindstrom is a Trib Total Media reporter.

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