AUSTIN — A lawyer who is selling the vacant Texas Highway Patrol Museum near downtown San Antonio testified Thursday that he rejected a $1.69 million offer from Lisa Wong, owner of Rosario’s Café y Cantina, because he suspected Wong wanted to tie up the property and scare off other buyers.
“It just seemed like a bad idea,” testified Karl Johnson, who was called to the stand in a Travis County courtroom after Wong’s lawyers challenged Johnson’s attempt to sell the property to a bidder whose offer was $90,000 lower than Wong’s.
The empty brick building across the street from Rosario’s at South Alamo and St. Mary’s streets has been tied up in litigation since December 2011, when the Texas attorney general’s office sued the nonprofit’s owner.
The attorney general accused the owner of squandering donations and seized the assets — including the museum.
The lawsuit was settled, the nonprofit was shut down and Probate Court Judge Guy Herman tasked Johnson with selling the museum.
But Wong’s lawyers filed a legal challenge last month alleging Wong’s offer for the property wasn’t taken seriously by either Johnson or his real estate broker, David Held.
Instead, Johnson wants to sell the property to a firm tied to the father-and-son team of Paul and Kevin Covey for $1.6 million — $90,000 less than Wong’s offer.
On Thursday, a lawyer for the attorney general’s office also raised concerns about the sale of the museum.
“We do not believe the sale should go forward,” Deputy Attorney General John Scott told Herman.
Scott didn’t offer details and declined to comment after the hearing.
Johnson acknowledged that Wong’s offer was highest. But he was concerned about a condition in the offer that would have given Wong the option to tie up the property for up to 90 days before deciding whether to buy it.
Johnson said he also was worried by a San Antonio Express-News article that appeared before the offer was made, quoting Wong saying she wasn’t interested in buying the museum property. Wong later said she didn’t want to publicly tip her hand and increase interest in the building.
Johnson suspected Wong wanted to scare off other buyers, then walk out at the end of the contract process and start over with a lower purchase price.
Wong is scheduled to testify about the matter today.
Lawyer believes Wong tried to limit patrol museum bids
January 25, 2013
San Antonio Express-News