Bank president vents about legal battle with “England Uneconomic Authority” over shuttered hotel, restaurant

ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) – On Monday, July 18, the president and CEO of the Bank of Montgomery sent an email to state and local officials detailing a series of problems he said the bank continues to encounter with the England Economic Development and Industrial District (EEIDD) over the sale of the shuttered Parc England Hotel and Bistro on the Bayou.

The hotel and restaurant are located in the England Airpark and have been closed for several years. Ken Hale, the president and CEO of the bank, said the Bank of Montgomery obtained the hotel and restaurant in 2012 and operated them while in a financial partnership with Parc England, LLC and its owner, Fred Rosenfeld.

After years of lost revenue, Parc England, LLC went bankrupt in 2016 and the bank took over the property for more than $600,000 in 2017. Since then, the bank has been actively trying to find a buyer and has been approached by many – the most recent, Jay Sharplin, who has offered $1.5 million to turn it into a Best Western.

But, Hale claims no offer has been good enough for the England Authority’s board, and litigation on the property has exceeded $1 million.

That legal battle started back in Feb. 2019 when the Bank of Montgomery filed a petition for declaratory judgment and damages against the EEIDD as it related to the hotel and restaurant.

The bank said the EEIDD’s actions have prevented them from selling and assigning its rights and obligations as agreed upon in the initial sale to the bank. The bank also believes the EEIDD is “engaging in predatory, self-dealing actions designed to force” the bank to give up its rights.

More than three years later, they are no closer to reaching a deal. According to Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, LLP – the law firm representing the EEIDD – the EEIDD will not accept anything less than $3 million for the property.

In the email sent by Hale on Monday, Hale said the England Authority “has turned down every tenant we have brought to them.” And, “Mr. Sharplin will be the last one to be willing to reopen the hotel. If they deny him, continue suing us, that hotel will close indefinitely and who wants that? Not BOM, but the EA (England Authority) sure seems to.” Hale even goes as far as calling the group the “England Uneconomic Authority” in the subject line of his email.

“We have tried to lease it to developers, some who had more experience than others,” said Jimmy Faircloth, who represents Bank of Montgomery, in an interview with News Channel 5. “Some who are willing to invest more than others. At the end of the day, all of these were fair opportunities, some better than others. I can’t quite determine what it is the authority wants to do with that facility. Do they want it back? Yes. I think at some level they want back the hotel free of the incumbents of the lease. Now what they’re going to do with that after that, I’m not sure. It needs about a million dollars or maybe a million and a half repairs to have it where its functional. I honestly do not understand quite what the end game is from the authority’s perspective.”

In his email, Hale asked, “How will private businesses ever come to (the) airpark with the treatment like this? No bank will ever lend money to a project at the airpark if this is not resolved. This is harmful for all of Rapides Parish. The England Authority Board thinks and acts as if they are a sovereign nation where no laws or rules apply to them.”

News Channel 5 reached out to Hale for an interview, but he directed us to our earlier interview with Faircloth.

It is important to note that when the lawsuit was filed in early 2019, its claims about the board fell during the tenure of executive director, Jon Grafton. Sandra McQuain was appointed to that position in the fall of 2018. She abruptly resigned about two weeks ago to “return to the private sector.” The board has since appointed an interim executive director, Gen. Glenn Curtis.

We received this statement from the England Authority board’s chair, Robbyn Cooper:

Cooper said no more statements would be made on the litigation. The trial for the lawsuit is set for Oct. 24, 2022, before 9th JDC Judge Patricia Koch.

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