Waterloo convention center developer addresses concerns - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo convention center developer addresses concerns

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The Ramada Hotel and Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center continue to be at the center of a city council dispute.

This time it was a lawsuit involving developer Edwin Leslie's work with an Omaha hotel and convention center which had Councilman Tom Lind voicing his concerns at last week's council meeting.

During the meeting, Lind called for an independent review of the development agreement with Leslie. 

"I just want to make sure this developer can perform. We based our decision on his success in Omaha. Which I understand he lost the hotel and convention center," said Lind during the November 27th meeting. Lind went on to say the Omaha property had failed.

Monday, Leslie spoke with KWWL. He says the lawsuit stemmed from a disagreement between him and his business partners.

"It created a dispute. It is a business dispute at the end of the day. It is not a failed business. There is a huge distinct difference between the two. In addition to that, I didn't hide anything from anyone. I was the one who disclosed it to council," said Leslie.

Leslie told council the facility is still operating and he fulfilled all his obligations under a development agreement before he was bought out.

The lawsuit also brought up another issue during last weeks city council meeting. Lind called for Councilmen Pat Morrissey and Tom Powers to abstain from any votes related to the convention center.

 "A developer paying for political ads is not a conflict of interest?" asked Lind at the November 27th meeting.

Lind was referring to Facebook ads that were posted by Leslie under the new hotel name. Lind called the ads, "pay for play."

"Shame on you for making an accusation that is totally false," responded Pat Morrissey. "I did not seek out anything from anybody from the Leslie group. I ran on my record and that was it."

Leslie backs up Morrissey's statement saying he used personal funds to support Morrissey, Powers and Lind's opponent Sharon Juon without the candidates' prior knowledge.

"Several months ago, I said all I wanted was to be treated fairly as a developer in this city. When it comes to Councilman Lind, I haven't gotten that fair treatment," said Leslie.

Leaving the politics behind, Leslie is currently managing both the hotel and convention center.

"We've brought in a lot of new business in the next 24 months. That is really good and we are excited about that. We have brought back a lot of old business, which is really exciting to get people to come back that were considering other venues," said Leslie.

Leslie told council members his team's sales already total nearly $3 million.

However, renovations to the two properties haven't started yet. Leslie is still waiting for the deeds to be transferred. He expects to see that happen around the first of the year.

As for Lind's call for an independent review, council members voted the motion down during Monday's meeting with a 5 to 2 vote.

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