Local News

Dispute Over Midway Contract Returns to Court

Posted May 9, 2007 4:58 p.m. EDT
Updated May 9, 2007 6:33 p.m. EDT

— Five years after a State Fair contract ended in scandal, the legal fight over the contract was back in court Wednesday.

Strates Shows, the Florida-based amusement company that ran the midway at the North Carolina State Fair for 60 years, claims it lost money because a competitor unfairly was awarded the 2002 midway contract by former Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps.

Phipps was later convicted of taking illegal cash payments from State Fair vendors. She recently completed a four-year prison sentence.

Strates Shows alleges in its lawsuit that Amusements of America, which won the 2002 contract, conspired with Phipps and cheated the company out of the contract.

The case went through federal court in 2004, but a judge dismissed it last July. Lawyers for Strates now want the case heard in state court.

Lawyers for Amusements of America said Wednesday that the latest legal maneuver still doesn't prove that Strates would have won the State Fair contract is their client hadn't. That means Strates can't prove it lost anything, they said.

"Does the federal court's ruling on these issues of causation, speculation and probability require the dismissal of Strates' claims? The answer is yes," defense attorney Shannon Joseph told the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Hardy Lewis, an attorney for Strates, argued that the appeals court should judge the claims against a state law for unfair practices, rather than a similar federal law.

"There is no civil action for corruption of a public bidding process," Lewis said.

A decision isn't expected in the case for at least 90 days. If the appellate judges rule in favor of Strates, the case will be go back to superior court.