Watch CBSN Live

Stadium Opponents File Lawsuit

Opponents of the New England Patriots' move to Hartford filed suit Tuesday in an attempt to keep the NFL team out of Connecticut.

They claimed that the team, Gov. John G. Rowland, and other state officials violated Connecticut's constitution and did not give the public enough of a chance to voice their opposition.

"This is more than just about the Patriots," said Tom Sevigny, whose Stop the Stadium! organization is one 10 plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit.

"We have tapped into the frustration that the people have felt now for a very long time about their government and the way their government is run. They understand that they have been excluded for far too long in favor of corporations."

Dean Pagani, a spokesman for Rowland, said the lawsuit comes as no surprise and is no threat to the stadium plan.

"Everyone who has seen the complaint to date feels the lawsuit is without merit," Pagani said.

Patriots spokesman Stacey James would not comment on the lawsuit.

Frank Cochran, the lead attorney, said the General Assembly ignored public input before agreeing to the $374 million stadium deal. He also said it's unconstitutional for the state to grant such a lucrative deal that allows a private company to skip steps in permitting processes.

"They don't need our subsidy, and we don't think there's any constitutional power to give them our subsidy," Cochran said.

The plantiff, which also include the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group and seven state residents, say they don't mind having a professional football team in the state. But they are opposed to the way in which the Patriots deal was brokered.

Along with the lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Hartford, consumer advocate Ralph Nader is promising to file a federal suit next month to block the stadium project.

Before lawmakers approved the stadium spending bill in December, one public hearing was held on the issue. Some have said that hearing wasn't taken seriously by the Legislature.

But Richard Blumenthal, the state's Attorney General, said the General Assembly closed the Patriots deal by the book.

"The Legislature has made a policy judgment that is legally valid, whether people agree with it or not," he said.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed