JOPLIN, Mo. – A Jasper County judge has denied a request for a new trial in a civil judgment awarded to Joplin against a developer hired to lead the city’s recovery after the May 2011 tornado that killed 161 people.
The $1.4 million civil judgment was entered May 13 against Wallace Bajjali Development Partners and its two principals, David Wallace and Costa Bajjali, because no one from the firm filed a response to the lawsuit, The Joplin Globe reported.
Bajjali, who appeared in court last week, was seeking to overturn the summary judgment after the company defaulted on contracts with the city and the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. Bajjali said he wasn’t properly served notice of the lawsuit or the court date to hear the city’s case.
Circuit Judge David Dally ruled Thursday that sufficient notice of the lawsuit had been given and denied the request for a new trial.
The state released an audit report Tuesday that said “key selection and agreement documents appeared to be written to benefit the company, and did not adequately protect the city.”
The audit said Joplin spent nearly $1.5 million with no real estate redevelopment services provided.
The state auditor’s office said it notified law enforcement agencies “of facts in our possession, which pertain to possible violations of state and/or federal statutes and possible malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance.”
Bajjali would not comment on the audit results, but his lawyer, Bill Fleischaker, said the city had wrongly blamed the redevelopment failure on Wallace Bajjali, of Sugar Land, Texas.
“The city has tried over and over again to demonize my client and blame all the mistakes that were made in the recovery efforts on my client,” Fleischaker said. “But there were plenty of mistakes made on the city’s side. All we’re asking for is a trial and an opportunity for the people of Joplin to hear how the city of Joplin interfered with our client’s ability” to carry out the work.