Tulsa Club sale Tuesday postponed as building's owner files for bankruptcy
BY KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
1/16/13 at 7:40 AM
The sale of the dilapidated Tulsa Club was delayed again Tuesday when the longtime absentee owner of the building filed for personal bankruptcy in Nevada.
The filing by California businessman C.J. Morony has the practical effect of placing a stay on all civil legal proceedings against him, including Tuesday's planned sheriff's sale of the building, city officials said.
"This individual apparently believes he can continue to avoid responsibility and we will eventually roll over and quit, and I can assure you that is not going to happen," Mayor Dewey Bartlett said.
He added that the real losers in the legal wrangling "are the adjacent property owners and the citizens of Tulsa who are being consistently forced to deal with an absentee owner that does not appear to want to take responsibility for the deteriorating condition of his property."
The vacant building at 115 E. Fifth St. was first scheduled to be sold in August at a sheriff's sale. That proceeding was stayed when Morony - who for years had been listed as owner of the Tulsa Club building, created a limited liability company in Nevada - transferred the title of the Tulsa Club to the LLC and placed the LLC in bankruptcy.
At the city of Tulsa's request, a Nevada judge subsequently lifted the stay, clearing the way for Tuesday's planned sale.
"Mr. Morony was the owner and is the defendant in this case," said Assistant City Attorney Bob Edmiston, who did not learn of the latest bankruptcy filing until arriving at Tuesday's sheriff's sale. "He is a named defendant, and (for) a named defendant who files bankruptcy, there is a stay even though the property has been transferred to another entity."
Edmiston said the city will go back to court in Nevada to have the stay lifted.
"We anticipate the same success in getting the stay lifted against Mr. Morony personally," as the city had with the LLC bankruptcy, Edmiston said.
David Dryer, Morony's local attorney, said Tuesday that his client has filed for Chapter 11 reorganization.
"We are just following the necessary proceedings to protect the interests of our client," Dryer said.
He rejected any suggestion that Morony is giving the city the runaround.
"These are his properties. He owns them, and he can do with those what he is legally able to do," Dryer said. "I don't think he has any animosity toward the city, but he is protecting his properties."
As for the future, Dryer said, his client will "continue through the legal process until he is able to utilize his properties as he deems fit."
The city has been in a legal battle with Morony since 2007 when the building was declared a nuisance after a rash of code violations.
Once a favorite haunt for Tulsa's elite, the Tulsa Club building opened in 1925 to provide facilities for the Tulsa Club and the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce.
The city took Morony to court in 2008, and last year Tulsa County District Judge Rebecca Nightingale entered a final order granting judgment to the city and other lienholders.
The city then filed to sell the building after multiple code violations went unaddressed, and remedial civil penalties, improvement district assessments and interest went unpaid. Morony currently owes the city $472,000.
Morony also owns the Sinclair Building at 6 E. Fifth St. He owes the city approximately $150,000 in unpaid Tulsa Stadium Improvement District assessments on that structure.
The city has sued to foreclose on the liens on the delinquent assessments. A court hearing on the city's request for a summary judgment in the case is scheduled for early February.
But Edmiston said those proceedings, too, would be stayed as a result of Morony's personal bankruptcy filing.
The Tulsa Club building timeline
1926-27: Built by the Tulsa Club and the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce.
1950: Chamber floors sold to the club.
1994: Building closed.
1997: Sold to C.J. Morony, a California real estate investor, for $125,000.
September 2007: Riddled with code violations, the building is targeted by the city to be restored or razed.
January 2008: Morony is fined $1,000 a day until the building is brought up to code.
May 2008: City files a nuisance abatement petition in district court as fines reach $180,000. Case assigned to Judge Deborah Shallcross.
October 2008: Fines reach $330,000 and judge awards a default judgment to the city for the owner's failure to remediate building-code violations.
December 2008: City files a foreclosure petition. The case is assigned to Judge Rebecca Nightingale. Morony files a petition the next day to vacate Shallcross' default judgment.
April 2010: A string of fires spurs city officials to search the vacant property for code violations and seal off access to the building.
May 2010: City files for a summary judgment against Morony's petition to vacate civil penalties lodged against him by the city.
July 2010: Request for summary judgment denied.
September 2010: Morony enters contract to sell building to Jeffrey Scott of Scott Realty Co. in Tulsa for $1.1 million.
October 2010: Tulsa County district judge rejects Morony's bid to vacate civil penalties lodged against him by the city.
September 2011: State Supreme Court dismisses Morony's appeal of appeal of a lower court's ruling upholding the city's $331,815 default judgment against him; Tulsa County District Judge Rebecca Nightingale enters a final order granting judgment to the city and other lienholders in the case, opening the door for foreclosure proceedings.
August 2012: Sheriff's sale of Tulsa Club building is stayed after Morony creates Nevada LLC, transfers Tulsa Club title to the LLC and then places the LLC in bankruptcy.
Late 2012: Nevada judge lifts stay, and Tulsa Club goes back on the sheriff's sale docket.
Jan. 15: Sheriff's sale of Tulsa Club stayed again after Morony files for personal bankruptcy in Nevada. Morony owes $472,000 in unpaid remedial civil penalties, improvement district assessments and interest on the building. He owes another $150,000 in unpaid improvement district assessments on the Sinclair Building, which he also owns.
Original Print Headline: New delay postpones sale of Tulsa Club
Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313
The Tulsa Club building was scheduled for a sheriff's sale Tuesday, but its absentee owner, California businessman C.J. Morony, filed for bankruptcy, which forces a stay on the sale. The building at 115 E. Fifth St. was built in 1925 to provide facilities for the Tulsa Club and the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, but it has been vacant since 1994. Tulsa World file