A Circuit Court Judge has requested a new hearing to consider arguments in a foreclosure lawsuit brought by Capital City Bank against the Port Authority of Port St. Joe.
Judge John Fishel, II has requested a new hearing to be scheduled so that he may hear more detailed arguments in the case.
Capital City Bank is suing to foreclose on a port-owned parcel which serves as a barge terminal, with bulkhead and uplands. The parcel sits along the Intracoastal Waterway.
Capital City Bank is seeking to foreclose on a $4.1-plus million mortgage taken out by the Port Authority.
“The judge wants to allow for more argument and new presentations of the arguments,” said port attorney Tom Gibson.
Gibson theorized that Fishel, who just rotated into Gulf County within the 14th Judicial Circuit, was surprised by the complexity and importance of the case.
He suggested that the previous hearing held last month was compressed, scheduled for just 30 minutes, and Fishel would like to hear more detail on the case.
The Port Authority’s defense team is arguing that the Port Authority lacked the authority to mortgage the 37-acre parcel.
“The question is whether the port had the capability to mortgage public land without a referendum,” Gibson said.
Under Florida law there must be a public referendum to approve the mortgaging of public land, Gibson said.
“The argument is we didn’t have the power to enter into that transaction,” Gibson said, noting that the port, as a special district under Florida statutes, can borrow and issues bonds.
A date and time for a new hearing has not been set, Gibson said, adding he had no idea of a timetable.
The judge’s ruling following the hearing, whenever it might come, would come down to one of three possibilities, Gibson said.
A win for Capital City Bank would enforce the mortgage and lead to foreclosure on the parcel.
A win for the Port Authority would mean the mortgage was invalid on its face, Gibson said.
The judge could also rule that the mortgage was unenforceable but the note the Port Authority owes Capital City Bank remained a debt that must be paid.
The Port Authority sought a compromise with Capital City Bank prior to the previous court hearing. The Port Authority would add teeth to the enforceability of the mortgage in return for Capital City dropping the foreclosure process to allow the port time to develop and generate revenue.