The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

State News

December 9, 2009

Oklahoma: High court affirms ruling in OSU eminent domain case

The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — The state Supreme Court says Oklahoma State University was authorized to use eminent domain to obtain the final piece of property needed for an athletic village in a case where the university battled two brothers over the future of their tiny ranch house.

In an 8-1 decision handed down Tuesday, the state’s highest court affirmed Payne County Judge Donald Worthington’s July 2007 ruling that authorized OSU to take title to the house a half-block from the school’s Stillwater campus, a decision appealed by property owners Kevin and Joel McCloskey.

But the Supreme Court remanded the case back to Worthington for a jury trial on how much the university must pay for the 631 square-foot property.

The brothers, who operate a small business called McCloskey Brothers, Inc., challenged OSU’s use of eminent domain — the taking of private land for a public use — for the $316 million athletic complex. They also claimed the university’s Board of Regents was unconstitutional because it did not abide by a requirement that at least five of its eight members be farmers.

The McCloskeys’ attorney, Harlan Hentges of Edmond, said they are considering asking the Supreme Court to rehear the case.

“The troubling thing is that your property can be taken by people who don’t hold their offices lawfully,” Hentges said. “You can say that law’s not important if you want. But who gets to decide what laws we abide by and what ones we don’t?”

The McCloskeys have maintained their home was worth more than OSU’s offers of $50,000, $54,000, $59,000 and $62,000 because of its proximity to campus and the task of finding a similar property to replace it. Their final counter to OSU asked for more than $89,000.

“OSU wants to pay less,” Hentges said.

The brothers purchased the property for about $25,000 in September 2005, about the same time OSU began expressing interest in the property for an athletic village. OSU’s regents filed a petition to acquire the property through eminent domain in August 2006 after negotiations broke down.

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