Sansone Group files lawsuit against PED, Darnell

Sansone Group is suing the Greater Paducah Economic Development Council and Scott Darnell alleging defamation, libel and tortious interference.

The lawsuit was filed in McCracken Circuit Court Tuesday. It lists Paducah Economic Development Foundation, Inc., the Greater Paducah Economic Development Council and Scott Darnell, president and CEO of Paducah Economic Development, as defendants. 

The lawsuit mentions a letter sent by Darnell, which he sent in response to a presentation the retail developer gave at a McCracken County School Board meeting about a project rejected by Paducah and McCracken County leaders. 

The suit alleges Darnell sent an email to retailers criticizing Sansone’s attempts to build in Paducah. As part of the lawsuit, one of the emails sent to Academy Sports Outdoors by Darnell reads "Sansone Group have gone to a new low recently, using the school board as a mechanism to try and push the city/county to give them a hand out…is parading your children’s future to help developers return a part of your strategy to locate in a community. Do you give Sansone permission to use your brand in this manner?"

For months, Sansone Group wanted to develop a 400,000-square-foot shopping center just west of Kentucky Oaks Mall off Olivet Church Road. Paducah city leaders told Sansone in July they do not offer retail incentives, and there would be no further discussion about it.

Jim Sansone with Sansone Group says several tenants forwarded emails from Scott Darnell to him. 

"They sent us some of the emails that were sent to them disparaging our company, our retailers, and the project we were working to put together," Sansone said.

In the lawsuit, Sansone alleges that Darnell asked business retailers to consider other potential sites advertised by GPED.

"We feel he acted unethically and unlawfully when he was working against us with our tenants and trying to bring them to other retailers in the area," Sansone said.

Sansone says his company’s reputation has been damaged and he wants to be treated fairly. In the lawsuit, Sansone Group is asking for compensatory damages. Sansone says this is the first time they’ve had to pursue actions like this against an economic developer.

Sansone says they still want to develop at that site and would like opportunity present their ideas.

We reached out to Scott Darnell asking for comment. We called and emailed Darnell, but we have not heard back. 

We spoke by phone with Paducah Commissioner Allan Rhodes Tuesday night. He’s been an outspoken commissioner against providing incentives to developers, specifically Sansone. He wasn’t aware that a lawsuit was filed and told us "they must be desperate" and, referring to Sansone, said "good luck. That’s crazy." 

To read Darnell’s letter, click here

To read the full lawsuit, click here

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