'We'll see you in court'
A STOUSH between Stanthorpe Sports Association and Southern Downs Regional Council is about to go through the courts.
On Monday, November 26 the association lodged a claim with the Magistrates Court of Queensland seeking damages "for breach of the lease in the amount of $26,175.85".
According to solicitor for the plaintiff (SSA), Michael Catanzaro, the disagreement dates back more than two years, with the association alleging that council refused to meet the terms of its lease agreement.
"The Stanthorpe Sports Association entered into a lease with the council in or around May to June 2016. The lease contained terms regarding the maintenance of the fields," Mr Catanzaro said.
"These terms were the same terms in essence as has been in place between the council and the association for more than 20 years.
"At no stage did council indicate to the association prior to signing the lease that it did not intend to continue maintaining the fields in accordance with the past or with what the association were led to believe were the terms of the lease.
"Two days after council signed the lease, council advised the association that, despite the terms of the lease, it would effectively not be responsible for the maintenance of the playing fields. "As a result, the association was forced to take on the field maintenance itself to ensure that sport can continue to be played and practiced in a safe manner," Mr Catanzaro said.
As a result, SSA were levelled with costs it hadn't factored in and couldn't, as a not-for-profit, afford to maintain, he said.
"The association has incurred unexpected debts and is reliant on the good will of many people to remain viable.
"The association has exhausted many various avenues to resolve this matter but was not successful."
According to excerpts within the claim, it was Mayor Tracy Dobie who sought to renege on the lease agreement.
"I made the decision that the lease could not go ahead and sought legal advice to break the lease. The legal advice received was that the lease had gone too far and could not be broken, however we could set a level of maintenance as the clause of the lease was ambiguous.
"The council has no money. There is no money in the bank. If something happens or there is a disaster, council will not be able to get a loan of money," the mayor is quoted as saying in statements to SSA executive members on October 5, 2016.
Mr Catanzaro said the plaintiff would argue that the lease was an 'entire agreement clause' and individual clauses could not be ignored.
"In the circumstances, the association felt that it had no choice but to seek to enforce, what it believes to be, its rights under the lease for the benefit of the community.
"Our firm, with the assistance of Stephen R J Bullow of counsel, has agreed to act on behalf of the association to assist with this matter and to this end has agreed that if the claim were unsuccessful we would not seek payment of our professional costs from the association," Mr Catanzaro said.
Council has 28 days to respond if it wishes to dispute the claim.
Council declined to comment saying "as this is a legal matter council cannot provide comment at this time."