City wants legal fee reimbursement for mortgage refinance plan


North Las Vegas city leaders spent a lot of money researching a recently rejected citywide mortgage refinance proposal. Now they want it back.

Officials claim Mortgage Resolution Partners — backers of a divisive plan to salvage thousands of underwater home loans through the city’s power of eminent domain — are yet to cough up $55,000 promised to recoup the cost of two city-solicited outside legal opinions.

MRP’s proposal called for the city to seize bad mortgages in much the same way it condemns a blighted property, with the San Francisco-based firm funding the municipality’s attempts to buy at-risk home loans currently held by banks and mortgage security investors.

The plan was rejected by unanimous City Council vote in September, though city officials contend the firm agreed to recoup all costs associated with legal due diligence months earlier, under the terms of a preliminary agreement first reached between the two parties in June.

It’s unclear how long the firm was given to pay the fees or whether the still-sealed legal opinions played any role in city leaders’ decision to torpedo the proposal.

It is clear that the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors — which spent more than $1 million on ads meant to defeat the eminent domain effort — plan to pick up the tab.

GLVAR representatives confirm they’ve been in talks to pay off the outstanding legal fees since early November, calling the deal a solution to “the latest in a long line of misrepresentations” from the firm.

It’s also an investment for association members, who will retain rights to publish the legal opinions in what could prove a public relations coup for GLVAR’s parent group, which is still fighting the eminent domain proposal in several cities across the country.

For former association spokesman Sean Fellows, who lobbied for months to block the adoption of MRP’s plan in North Las Vegas, the move is simply an exercise in good corporate citizenship.

“(The unpaid fees) clearly show the self-centered opportunism of MRP,” Fellows said. “So much for truly caring about a community when a bunch of fat cats stick a financially strapped community with legal fees they promised to cover.

“As I always said, they were out to fleece the community with their snake oil scheme.”

Interim City Attorney Sandra Douglass-Morgan declined to comment on whether the city could look to recoup the fees in court.

Mayor John Lee, the recipient of $5,000 in Realtors association campaign funds, sounded content to leave the matter in the court of public opinion.

“This is another great example of the current solution based mindset at City Hall,” the first-term mayor said, “(a mindset) that is actively engaged in solving the problems from our city’s past.”

Representatives with MRP did not immediately return requests for comment.

Contact reporter James DeHaven at 702-477-3839 or jdehaven@viewnews.com.

 

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