Judge dismisses lawsuit over state beach hotel
Posted September 15
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A judge on Thursday dismissed the state auditor's effort to block Alabama from building a beach hotel with oil spill settlement funds.
Alabama plans to build a 350-room hotel and conference center at Gulf State Park. State Auditor Jim Zeigler and state Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow filed the lawsuit against Gov. Robert Bentley and others, arguing the expenditure required legislative approval.
Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin said Morrow and Zeigler have no grounds to sue. The judge noted the project does not involve taxpayer dollars and is being built with settlement funds to compensate the state for damages sustained during the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
"Specifically, Mr. Zeigler has no legal authority to bring suit in his official capacity," Griffin wrote.
Bentley praised the court's decision.
"Today's decision reiterates that the Gulf State Park project is proceeding within legal means," Bentley said in a statement. "The redevelopment of the Gulf State Park will benefit Alabama as well as all state parks throughout the state."
Zeigler said he and his lawyers will study the ruling and decide whether to appeal.
"Gov. Bentley is acting as a one-man legislature. He is appropriating BP money with no authority," Zeigler said in a statement.
A Tuesday court hearing in the case pitted state officials against each other over the project. However, this is the second time a judge has ruled in favor of the governor.
Zeigler and Morrow, both frequent critics of Bentley's, filed the lawsuit four days after a judge dismissed a similar suit filed by the former conservation director for lack of standing.
The proposed conference center could accommodate gatherings of up to 1,500 people at a time. The state hopes to have the facility open in 2018.