Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Senator Theatre Auction and Why it Won’t Be Contested

Baltimore City and the Baltimore Development Corporation [BDC] are set to finalize their takeover of The Senator Theatre on September 19th, if no compelling objection to the ratification of the auction is filed with the Baltimore City Circuit Court by the end of Friday, September 18th.

There are numerous reasons why the manipulated results of the recent auction sale of The Senator Theatre should be invalidated by the court, but that’s not going to happen.

Here are some of the primary reasons why the auction results will not be overturned:

Circuit Courts rarely invalidate foreclosure auctions, particularly one that was initiated by the Mayor’s Office of Baltimore City after they bought The Senator Theatre’s commercial loan from 1st Mariner Bank and took on the legal position of the lender.

In these unprecedented circumstances, the City had a legal mandate as the regulated lender to follow established procedures of fairness and impartiality in conducting a foreclosure auction sale of a citizen’s private property.

The authority and responsibility to evaluate and enforce those established lender auction sale regulations, however, is ultimately in the hands of an elected Baltimore City Circuit Court judge.

It’s an outrage that the powers that be in city government and the BDC seized their long sought opportunity to take control of The Senator from its owner, who had simply sought their assistance, along with business and residential leaders, to transition the renowned theatre to not-for-profit, community-based ownership.

In their obvious effort to thwart non-profit ownership conversion of The Senator and gain full control of the theatre (and other strategically located real estate parcels owned by Tom Kiefaber), the City and BDC representatives first impugned his professional reputation through the media, as they have done to others in the past before their property is taken. They then proceeded to become the lender, pointedly undermine the validity of the recent Senator Theatre auction, and control the outcome with a clear sense of impunity.

The best shot at invalidating the auction would be an objection filed by the soon-to-be former property owner, Tom Kiefaber. Tom has made it clear, however, that he cannot object to the court’s ratification of the auction, for unspecified reasons that he refuses to delineate or discuss.

Having followed this unfolding saga and investigated the many odd and circuitous developments, it is safe to assume that Kiefaber’s uncharacteristic refusal to join an effort to resist our city government’s abuses of power is due to his apparent fear of even worse consequences for him and his family.

Tom Kiefaber, devastated by the coordinated attacks on his professional reputation and the corrupt “taking” of his beloved historic theatre by city government, is now behaving like a traumatized and fearful hostage --- one who supports terrorist demands on camera, while off-camera there is clearly a weapon threatening him and his family. It’s a heartbreaking situation for those who understand that a monumental injustice has victimized an accomplished man and his family who have done so much to benefit Baltimore City and our community.

This situation is a recent reminder that something is rotten in Gotham City.

We thought for a while that, as Baltimore City taxpayers, we might be able to put a citizen’s group together of figurative stockholders who have been financially harmed by the lender’s actions, which cheated the citizen/stockholders in an illegitimate scheme intended to benefit a few administrative insiders.

The hope was that a credible citizen activist challenge to the ratification of the auction might have legal standing to file an objection to the ratification of the auction in circuit court. We have received legal advice from more than one attorney discouraging this course of action. We’ve been told that the basic concept and the cumulative documentation that the auction’s outcome was significantly tainted both have merit, but there would be little chance that a Baltimore Circuit Court judge would rule in favor of the owner and the community over the Mayor’s office and the BDC.

Even if a citizen activist effort prevailed in court, the outcome would be to hold a new auction with significantly increased fees, and the folks pulling the levers of power in Baltimore would likely take further punitive action, to the detriment of Tom and his family, putting them in an even worse position. Perhaps that explains Tom’s aversion to the concept and his refusal to even discuss it with our group.

Despite deep concerns over ratification of the sham auction we would never risk triggering further harm and trauma to come to Tom and his family. They’ve made so many personal sacrifices to protect The Senator Theatre, and keep it open and operating in an award-winning fashion, as a classy anchor and source of civic pride since 1939. In fact, we all owe Tom Kiefaber and his extended family a huge debt of gratitude for their consistent success in keeping The Senator intact and operating for 70 years, when so many historic theatres nationwide were shuttered and abandoned.

Now we look ahead to the next step in the process. I hope that through the RFP process we can help to ensure that The Senator will be protected and continue to evolve, as envisioned by its former owner and the community, as the region’s premiere educational and entertainment venue, under non-profit ownership.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Anonymous Keith M Carey said...

It is truely a shame that the city of Baltimore has performed such a travesty by punishing a successful businessman, who has run his business ethically even though the tough times of the neighborhood. Tom Kiefaber should be honored and not villified. Hopefully the primary RFP bidder will be wise enough to pay for Kiefaber's consultation and finally bring his initial vision to fullfillment so that the people of Baltimore can continue their enjoyment of the famous Senator Theatre. The community does owe its gratitude and respects to the Kiefaber family and should assist them as much as possible. Rather citizens agree with the way the Theatre is being used currently or not, people should respect a businessman who gave the community support through the years in its charity efforts.

September 18, 2009


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home