Condo Owners Want Bushes to Answer Questions

Attorneys for former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, are fighting efforts by two condominium owners to pull the Bushes into a lawsuit questioning whether Southern Methodist University used unfair tactics to buy out owners at low prices.

The condo owners want to question the Bushes about what SMU officials told them in private meetings before SMU was selected as the site of the presidential library.

"What he's asking for is extraordinary," Bush's lawyer, John H. Martin, said in a story in Sunday's online edition of The Dallas Morning News, referring to plaintiff Gary Vodicka. "He has had ample opportunity to ask others questions. He does not need to get any information from the president."

Bush's attorneys have until 5 p.m. Monday to file papers in state court with their arguments on why the Bushes should not have to give depositions. They are expected to cite cases in which courts have said current and former presidents should not be pulled into civil disputes.

Plaintiffs are trying to determine whether SMU officials made a pitch for the library before the university purchased the condominiums. They say the timing is important because it could show that SMU officials did not disclose information that could have affected the value of the land.

Plaintiffs say they need to hear from the Bushes.

"They're fact witnesses in the case," said Dallas lawyer Larry J. Friedman, who represents a former condo owner, Robert Tafel. "We think they'll be truthful, and that's the key to our case."

SMU officials say they bought University Gardens Condominiums because the property fit a number of possible projects, not just the library. The complex was torn down after it was purchased.

While it was mentioned as a possible site for the library, it is not to be used for that purpose.

"Our building is (going to be) north of the University Gardens property line," said Mark Langdale, president of the Bush Foundation.

Federal District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer has previously ruled that SMU has clear title to the condominium complex and didn't break University Garden Condomiums bylaws.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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