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Bishop Gorman High School landlord files for bankruptcy

Bishop Gorman High School’s landlord has filed for bankruptcy.

The landlord, Bishop Gorman Development Corp., filed for Chapter 11 reorganization over its dispute with Tiberti Construction, which built a portion of the high school campus, according to a statement from the landlord Monday.

The private Catholic high school, with an erollment of about 1,500 students, pays its landlord monthly rent to use the campus under a long-term lease. The proceedings will not interrupt operations at the school, which is about 60 years old, according to the statement.

Representatives of the landlord have contested $22 million that remained unpaid to Tiberti for the builder’s work on the school at 5959 S. Hualapai Way, south of the intersection at Russell Road.

The landlord planned to pay once donations designed specifically for the construction work came in.

An arbitrator ruled in favor of Tiberti and a District Court judge upheld the decision. The landlord continued to protest the decision.

In its Monday statement, the landlord calls Tiberti’s demands “unreasonable and unrealistic” and said Tiberti was not willing to negotiate.

The relationship between the school and the Tiberti family has a deep history. A number of Tiberti family members graduated from the school, and one of the building’s conference rooms bears J.A. Tiberti’s name.

“We have taken this action to protect the investments made by so many members of our community,” the landlord’s executive director, Deacon Aruna Silva, said in the Monday statement. “We are hopeful that this reorganization will result in a fair and just solution.”

A Tiberti representative said the construction company is not to blame for the bankruptcy filing.

In a Tuesday statement, attorney Paul Hejmanowski said Tiberti hadn’t received promised paments from Bishop Gorman for almost six years.

Tiberti had to start legal proceedings to protect its right to the $20 million the landlord owed Tiberti. The landlord refused an agreement that would have extended the statute of limitations and avoided formal legal action and even picked the retired Federal District Court judge who served as arbitrator, Hejmanowski said.

The Tiberti family, lifelong Catholic church members who have contributed millions of dollars to Bishop Gorman, is offended by the landlord’s criticisms of the family’s construction company, the attorney said.

“Such misrepresentations are false and unworthy of a church-affiliated entity,” he said. “The mistreatment and public misrepresentations by Bishop Gorman are an extreme personal disappointment to the Tiberti family.”

Adam Stein-Sapir, a managing partner with New York-based claim buyers Pioneer Funding Group, said the close relationship between the landlord and Tiberti may be unusual, but contracts that didn’t specify how bills got paid were signed during the pre-recession construction boom.

“The project is a product of the time,” Stein-Sapir said.

Contact Wade Tyler Millward at wmillward@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4602. Follow @wademillward on Twitter.

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