Documents filed in Federal Court last month establish that the City of Branson was not only aware of ownership issues but also negotiated with former Judge Peter Rea to clear title on 37% of the $450 million public/private Lake Taneycomo development known as the Branson Landing.
Contrary to testimony presented to the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals; correspondence from former Branson attorney Lynn Rogers reveals Branson Alderman agreed to settle the dispute with Rea as long as the purchase price was laundered through a third party.
Rea invented a scheme where much of the land described in a warranty deed filed in 1972 by Tori Inc., a company owned by Rea, would be donated to the City of Branson in addition to $25,000 - $30,000 cash. Rea's donation of land would include a tax credit for $8 million dollars with Rea would market to another business entity for an additional $1 million dollars in cash. The document dated July 6th 2004 (posted above)details Branson's strategy and shortcomings summed with the statement from Branson's legal counsel:
"The chain of title in -this case is an absolute mess.' There appears to be nothing but gaps based upon the deeds presented"
Branson's Alderman met with attorneys from Empire District Electric whom filed a quite title lawsuit to clarify ownership.
While Branson was working hand-in-hand with Empire District Electric, they planned a maneuver to finagle the land from Empire's hands through adverse possession. The legitimacy of a title of which the city of Branson payed $940,000 was also in question. The $940,000 land purchase helped legitimize Rea's claim.
While Branson made a strategic decision to not litigate the matter, gambling on Empire District Electric victory was a costly error. A Taney County jury ruled in favor of Coverdell solidifying Coverdell's property claim. The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals heard testimony from former Missouri Supreme Court Judge John Holstein who claimed the City of Branson was unaware of the implications of the Taney county jury's verdict in favor of Coverdell.
The basis for Empire District Electric's lawsuit was a "scrivner's error" made 100 years ago. Branson's counsel opines the lack of validity to Empire's claims. Holstein not only denied knowledge, but submitted maps created 9 years after the quite title lawsuit was filed. While the lawsuit predates the creation of the Branson Landing by over 4 years; Holstein argued Coverdell's victory would cause insurmountable damage to the City.
Empire District Electric clearly had ulterior motive in filing the lawsuit. Victory could mean billions in property losses from Taney County landowners. Empire District Electric hopes two Missouri Supreme Court decisions will be overturned that translates "flooding rights" be interpreted as fee simple tile.
Empire District Electric has backed off a policy of notifying property owners on Lake Taneycomo their claims against owners of property on lake since Coverdell's victory.
The document posted above was an exhibit filed in U.S Federal Court by the City of Branson against First American Title Insurance, Chicago Title Insurance Company and Fidelity National Title Insurance Company.
Over the past few years the City of Branson has taken a conservative position on releasing public documents denying access to invoices paid in clear violation of Missouri's Sunshine Law. Local news outlets have been unable to obtain the billing documents; however, it is believed that billing may ex-cede $1,000,000 for Holstein's "cloud making" services. The City of Branson hopes to recover funds through a title policy whose terms are in dispute.
In order to bypass legal controversy over property ownership, the City of Branson worked with Empire District electric creating a new plat map overlaying the property ownership in question.