Technology entrepreneur Halsey Minor on Feb. 9 filed a civil suit that maintains John Brunetti, by not holding racing at Hialeah Park since 2001, is in default on agreements under which he purchased the historic race track.
The suit, in which the city of Hialeah also is a defendant, asks a state circuit court in Miami, Fla., to “impose a constructive trust on the subject property in favor of the City of Hialeah and for the use and benefit of its citizens.”
If the court rules in his favor, Minor said he believes the city would own the track. In that situation, he said he would be interested in leasing, rebuilding, and re-opening it. Hialeah Park last held races in 2001.
After reviewing Minor’s suit, Brunetti refuted its allegations.
Brunetti and Minor each said they are no longer discussing a possible sale of Hialeah Park. Last August, Minor approached Brunetti about a possible sale of Hialeah Park. Talks fell apart two months later due to a big difference in a possible sales price. Neither Brunetti nor Minor would disclose numbers.
When told about Minor’s suit, a representative for Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina said the mayor feels that “Mr. Brunetti lived up to all agreements” in the purchase of the track. Robaina and the spokesman were reviewing the suit on the evening of Feb. 9.
“I am confident that everything was done properly,” Brunetti said, referring to a 1978 agreement in which he took out a 30-year mortgage from the city of Hialeah to purchase the track and agreed to make payments while operating it. The city transferred the deed for the track to Brunetti in 2004.
Brunetti said Hialeah Park has not held a race meet since 2001 because of Florida’s deregulation of racing dates. If privately-owned Hialeah were to run a meet, its schedule would conflict with South Florida's Gulfstream Park, owned by Magna Entertainment Corp., and/or Calder Race Course, owned by Churchill Downs Inc.
Minor’s suit also maintains that Brunetti defaulted on the 1978 agreement by not maintaining a valid pari-mutuel license and not maintaining the property in the same condition it was in when the deal was signed.
The suit also claims that city of Hialeah’s charter prohibits it from donating, selling, or otherwise disposing of city property without approval of the electorate. Thus, the suit asks the court to void the 2004 deeding of Hialeah Park.
The suit notes that after Brunetti arranged to buy the track in 1977, Hialeah voters approved the city’s purchase to assure the property would remain a race track.
Robaina’s spokesman said the mayor believes Brunetti has been the owner throughout the entire time frame.
Minor and Save Hialeah Racing, a non-profit corporation of which he is president, are plaintiffs. According to the suit, Save Hialeah Racing has members in Hialeah, other parts of Florida, and throughout the United States.
Defendants are Brunetti, Hialeah Inc., Bal Bay Realty, and the city of Hialeah. Hialeah Inc. is Brunetti’s company that purchased Hialeah Park. Bal Ray Realty is his company that holds the title.
“I do not want to present our case in the press,” Brunetti said. “I am confident that we will prevail in any legal process.”