By SUMMER BALLENTINE
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Missouri state lawmaker asked a judge to block Gov. Jay Nixon from working on plans to build a new NFL stadium in St. Louis, calling the effort a misuse of taxpayer dollars for an “illegal purpose.”
Republican Rep. Jay Barnes of Jefferson City represented a group six lawmakers suing Nixon and officials who oversee the current Rams stadium. They want to block Nixon and the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority from taking action on a new stadium, saying they don’t have the authority to do so.
An attorney for Nixon asked Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem to dismiss the case, in part claiming that Nixon’s involvement is minimal.
The lawsuit comes as Rams owner Stan Kroenke works to build a new stadium in the Los Angeles area, a former home to the team. That’s prompted concern that Kroenke will move the Rams as early as 2016.
Although the sports authority is in charge of securing a new stadium, Nixon has expressed support and helped with plans to replace the aging Edward Jones Dome. Nixon has asked a former Anheuser-Busch executive and a prominent attorney to analyze the stadium issue and brainstorm options.
The current stadium is considered outdated by NFL standards, and the hope is that building a new one could persuade the Rams to stay or attract another team if they leave.
But lawmakers claim the planned stadium is illegal because it’s not located directly next to the city convention center, as is required by state law. Barnes said he wants to stop the state from signing any contracts or agreements with the authority to pay for a new dome.
“The governor does not have the authority to spend taxpayer dollars for an illegal purpose,” Barnes said.
Attorneys for Nixon and the sports authority said no contracts or agreements have been signed.
Barnes also criticized the governor for what he characterized as a misuse of taxpayer money as Nixon pushes for a new stadium. The suit says the sports authority, as of May, has been billed for more than $800,000 in expenses related to planning and that it has signed contracts worth more than $40 million for architects, attorneys and others.
J. Andrew Hirth, who represents Nixon through the Attorney General’s Office, said Nixon has the right to speak on the issue. He said ultimately it’s up to sports officials to act, so Nixon shouldn’t be named in the case. Attorneys for the sports authority expressed similar concerns.
“I still don’t know what it is that the governor has done wrong,” said Chris Bauman, one of the attorneys representing the sports authority, “or what it is the plaintiffs would ask the judge to stop him from doing.”
Beetem on Tuesday did not say when he planned to issue a ruling.