York County sues Tepper businesses, Rock Hill to recoup $21M tied to ‘failed vanity project’

According to the lawsuit, those monies were restricted public funds that were to be used to expand Mt. Gallant Road in York County.
An incomplete construction site will remind Rock Hill residents of the failed Panthers HQ...
An incomplete construction site will remind Rock Hill residents of the failed Panthers HQ project and the taxpayer dollars that were committed.(WBTV)
Published: Jun. 10, 2022 at 10:42 AM EDT
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YORK COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) – York County has filed a lawsuit against several of Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper’s organizations and the city of Rock Hill over the “misappropriation” of $21 million in funds tied to the team facility that was under construction in Rock Hill.

“It is unfortunate we’ve gotten to this point that it’s going to result in lawsuit after lawsuit,” says York County Councilmember Bump Roddey.

According to the lawsuit, those monies were restricted public funds that were to be used to expand Mt. Gallant Road in York County.

Appaloosa Management, DT Sports Holding and Tepper Sports Holding were each named as defendants and are referred to throughout as the “Tepper Defendants.”

County leaders allege in the lawsuit the Tepper Defendants “improperly utilized these funds on their failed vanity project, the Carolina Panthers’ headquarters and practice facility.”

“Both the City and the Tepper Defendants have harmed York County and its taxpayers, and the County should be made whole,” court documents state.

“There’s a lot of money on the line so we’re just doing this to protect York County taxpayers,” he says. “York County’s done everything it was supposed to do in this agreement but other parties may or may not have done that and I think the courts is one way to flesh that out.”

The $21 million came from the county’s Penny Tax Revenue and was designated to expand Mt. Gallant Road between Dave Lyle Boulevard and Anderson Road from two lanes to three, the lawsuit states.

Mayor John Gettys spoke regarding the Panthers' failed practice facility and GT Real Estate Holdings' bankruptcy filing.

According to court documents, as plans for the project developed the defendants identified the need to further expand Mt. Gallant Road to five lanes instead of three. That road borders the planned headquarters.

County leaders claim that they, Tepper’s companies and the city of Rock Hill agreed that if the Penny Tax Funds were provided, the Tepper Defendants would manage and construct the Mt. Gallant Road expansion and be responsible for all additional costs.

York County claims the funds were “comingled” with other operating funds and misappropriated to other aspects of the project.

“To date, no progress has been made toward the completion of the Mt. Gallant Expanded Scope,” the lawsuit states.

York County is seeking full restitution and repayment of the $21 million.

A Tepper Sports and Entertainment spokesperson declined to comment.

The City of Rock Hill released the following statement:

Lawyer Tommy Pope says the city of Rock Hill being in this suit is not actually surprising.

”What I read there was the lawyers trying to do their best job for York County,” Pope says.

Attorney Tommy Pope says including Rock Hill is probably more about York County covering all its bases, especially if its ruled the city did breach the contract.

”Any time lawyers get involved everybody has to get into their own foxhole and has to protect their own interests,” he says.

Pope’s not only a lawyer but also a state legislator that fought for this project – and fears this project’s failure could hurt future proposals.

”It’s gonna be much more difficult for the next opportunity we have to have the legislative or political courage to step up and try to do something,” he says.

The Carolina Panthers’ facility and team headquarters was stalled in early March, but construction didn’t end until the end of the month.

Then last week, Tepper’s GT Real Estate Holdings, LLC, created in anticipation of the team’s headquarters, filed for bankruptcy.

That bankruptcy filing dealt a final blow to the Panthers’ project in Rock Hill.

Related: Elected leaders, Tepper’s team avoid question over Rock Hill deal collapse

In Oct 2020, the Carolina Panthers revealed renderings of their new headquarters and practice facility coming to Rock Hill.

Related: Carolina Panthers reveal renderings of HQ, practice facility in Rock Hill, S.C.

It was a joint reveal from the Panthers, York County, and the city of Rock Hill. The mixed-use site was designed to host Tepper Sports and Entertainment and become a destination for people all over the region.

The lawsuit adds that the project and developments spurred by the project, were expected to reap over $100 million for the county in tax revenues and economic benefits. The county is requesting restitution for that lost revenue.

When completed, the development was to include restaurants, retail, a healthcare facility, apartments, hotels, trails, and office space.

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