The Tampa Bay Times is reporting the City of St. Pete has told Hillsborough commissioners to essentially cease and desist their conversations with the Rays:
The threat came in a letter from St. Petersburg City Attorney John Wolfe to Hillsborough County attorneys. It marks an escalation of tension between the city and Hillsborough commissioners, who in August invited the Rays to appear before them to talk about baseball.
The Rays accepted the invitation, but a meeting date has not yet been set.
Hillsborough Commission Chairman Ken Hagan, who once offered to "be the boyfriend that causes the divorce'' between St. Petersburg and the Rays, consulted his attorneys before inviting the Rays to meet. His attorneys concluded that any legal threat from St. Petersburg was minimal.
On Thursday, Hagan shrugged off St. Petersburg's threat and said he was "still excited about having the Rays speak to our board.
"I am confident in the legal opinion of the county attorney's office," Hagan told the Tampa Bay Times. "I am saddened by Mr. Wolfe's attempt to prevent the Rays from remaining in the Tampa Bay region."
But Mayor Bill Foster had this to say:
Hillsborough County can talk to the Rays about how to draw more fans from across the bay or marketing programs to increase attendance at Tropicana Field. But, he said, "it would be improper for them to have any discussions regarding the Rays playing anywhere outside Tropicana Field.
"We're still looking for a St. Petersburg solution."
Hagan extended the invitation to the Rays after county attorneys said commissioners, as third parties, were not bound by the Trop contract.
In a written analysis, Robert Brazel, a managing attorney in the county's litigation division, wrote that the county would open itself to lawsuit only if it damaged St. Petersburg and such damages would be difficult to prove "unless a new stadium is ultimately constructed in Hillsborough County" and St. Petersburg is not compensated for the team's loss.
But his memo also was cautionary. It suggested that the commission not delve into any discussion of stadium location and simply allow the Rays to talk about their intentions, long-term plans and goals.