A Richmond Circuit Court judge has dismissed Al Bowers Jr.'s $205 million lawsuit against former Mayor L. Douglas Wilder and the city of Richmond. Bowers' attorneys have since amended the lawsuit in hopes of reviving the case.
In his complaint, Bowers, a minority construction contractor, charges that Wilder and his staff conspired to have him removed from the $110 million Miller & Rhoads hotel and condominium project in 2006. In an ugly personal feud, Bowers says in the suit that Wilder contacted an official with HRI Properties in New Orleans, the lead developer on the Miller & Rhoads project, and told the official that he didn't “want that f—-ing [racial epithet] on this project.”
In a ruling July 23, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Melvin R. Hughes Jr. dismissed both the conspiracy and defamation of character claims, but left the door open for Bowers' lawyers to file an amended complaint, which has since been filed. (As of Monday, Hughes' ruling had not been officially entered into the court record.) Brent Jackson, Bowers' lead lawyer, didn't return phone calls by Style's press time.
The defamation charges were dismissed because the legal statute had expired, the judge ruled, and because Bowers' consulting and construction businesses “were not then doing any work for which they could seek compensation” when the contract was terminated in July 2006. “In summary, there is no sufficient allegation that plaintiffs have not been paid or are due payment,” the judge wrote.
As for Wilder, the judge ruled that Bowers' lawyers failed to make the distinction between Wilder's actions as mayor and as an individual citizen, with the former affording Wilder immunity in the case.
A hearing on the amended lawsuit has not been set. The original three-day trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday, Aug. 25.
Correction: Style misidentified Brent Jackson, Al Bowers' attorney, in earlier print and online versions of this story. We regret the error.