Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Will Matty Moroun show, or no? Judge's order looms

Posted By on Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 4:13 PM

Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards, ruling for the second time that the Detroit International Bridge Company was in contempt for refusing to complete its share of the southwest Detroit Gateway Project as agreed to in a contract with the Michigan Department of Transportation, last November said that he wanted to see bridge company President Dan Stamper and company owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun in court the morning of Jan. 12 — this Thursday.

Subsequent to that order, lawyers for Moroun filed a motion claiming that the octogenarian billionaire doesn’t really own the Ambassador Bridge that links Detroit and Windsor, and therefore shouldn’t have to appear before Edwards, who briefly jailed Stamper one year ago after the company was first found to be in contempt.

“Mr. Moroun is not the owner of the DIBC, and is not the decision maker with respect to the Gateway Project,” attorneys for Moroun argued in a motion filed Dec. 21.

According to documents supplied to the court, the actual owner of the bridge company is an entity called DIBC Holdings Inc. The controlling interest in that company is held by Mathew Moroun, Matty’s son. Something called the Manuel J. Moroun Trust owns less than 50 percent of DIBC Holdings’ stock.

“Mr. Moroun’s presence at the hearing will not assist the Court in devising appropriate sanction,” his lawyers contend. “Mr. Moroun respectfully requests that his attendance be excused.”

Moroun’s lawyers argued that a decision needed to be made before then, and asked for a hearing to be held in early January. Edwards turned down the request, issuing a letter saying that he would decide the issue Thursday morning, just prior to the hearing on the contempt charges.

Which means that, according to Moroun’s own lawyers, the question of whether their client needed to show up in court on the 12th would be rendered “moot” if the judge decided to wait until then to consider their arguments.

So, it appears clear to us that Matty better be there. But this is a guy who’s previously demonstrated a belief that he is above the law. Or, at the very least, the DIBC — a company he is intrinsically connected to — has displayed that attitude.

As U.S. District Judge Patrick Duggan previously observed: "Considering this Court's more than 33 years as a judicial officer, DIBC may be entitled to its recognition as the party who has devised the most creative schemes and maneuvers to delay compliance with a court order."

Which means we wouldn’t bet the farm Matty will actually show up. After all, guys in their 80s have been known to have sudden medical emergencies (wink, wink).

Whether Matty bears legal responsibility for the bridge company’s continued contempt is an interesting question. It may be that he’s not technically the owner of the company, but there seems to be little doubt that he’s one of the people calling the shots.

And how do we know that?

The information comes from Stamper himself — while testifying under oath.

Layers for the state were nice enough to point that out in documents they filed with Edwards.

Asked by an attorney for the state who he takes orders from, Stamper replied that he answers to the board of directors of another holding company, CenTra Transport.

And who is it that sits on that board?

Matty, his son Mathew and his wife Nora.

So, maybe the bigger question is why aren’t they being compelled to stand before Edwards as well?

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