Attorneys representing National Pet Products have filed a lawsuit against the McAlester Foundation.

Among other things, the lawsuit seeks title to the property where the plant is located at 105 W. Ashland Ave., in McAlester.

Attorneys filed the lawsuit in district court at the Pittsburg County Courthouse. The suit states that National Pet has invested more than $1,378,500 in the project, has the required number of employees and is now operational.

National Pet Products faced a deadline today to have 25 employees working full-time or else pay penalties of $15,000 for every employee under that number. The penalties would be split, with $10,000 going to the city of McAlester and $5,000 to the McAlester Foundation, according to the original contract.

The McAlester Foundation, described by its members as a private group, has acted as a representative for the city of McAlester and the Kiamichi Economic Development District of Oklahoma, according to the suit.

On Oct. 21, 2002, National Pet entered into a lease agreement with the McAlester Foundation, the lawsuit states. Through the agreements, the company started at the property on West Ashland Avenue.

“The purpose of the contracts was to provide economic incentives for National Pet to locate a dog food manufacturing plant in McAlester, to invest the time, money and energy necessary to build the plant and cause it to become operational and for National Pet to provide employment at the plant,” the suit states.

“Unfortunately, the construction of the plant and the completion of the tasks necessary to become an operational dog food manufacturing facility fell behind the schedule contemplated in the original contracts,” the suit states.

Although the project fell behind the original schedule, the McAlester Foundation continued to invest the time, money and energy necessary to cause the plant to become operational, the lawsuit alleges.

The suit alleges that Jim Mills, who is the executive director of the McAlester Economic Development Service, never told National Pet that the McAlester Foundation would insist on strict adherence to the original schedule.

In addition, the suit alleges that McAlester Foundation President Dick Dudley did not insist that National Pet maintain the original schedule. The suit also alleges that the construction inspector for the McAlester Foundation, John H. Miller, did not insist that National Pet meet the “rigid requirements” of the original schedule.

The lawsuit states that National Pet is producing dog food as of this week, “some of which is for customers that are lined up and ready to buy” and now has more than 25 employees.

“By letter dated Sept. 15, 2005, the McAlester Foundation notified National Pet that it intended to insist on the schedule as originally contemplated and demand possession of National Pet business premises on Oct. 22, 2005.”

In a letter dated Oct. 6, the McAlester Foundation declined to enter into negotiations with National Pet to resolve the dispute, the lawsuit alleges.

“The McAlester Foundation continued to insist on retaking possession of the property on Oct. 22, 2005,” the lawsuit states.

“If the McAlester Foundation has insisted all along on rigid adherence to the schedule contemplated in the original contracts, National Pet would not have continued to put in the time, money and energy necessary to cause the plant to become operational,” the suit states.

It seeks a declaratory judgment that National Pet is not in violation of its contract or lease agreement. It also seeks a judgment to redo the contract under a different schedule.

In addition, the suit seeks a judgment requiring the McAlester Foundation to deed the property to National Pet, an award of unspecified damages, costs and attorney fees.

The suit was filed by attorneys Robert G. Campbell, of Oklahoma City, and J. Michael Miller, of McAlester.

The possibility of penalties against National Pet Products was included as part of the agreement which allowed the company to receive public money from the city of McAlester and the Kiamichi Economic Development District of Oklahoma to help with the project.

The McAlester City Council approved a $250,000 contribution to National Pet Products on Aug. 13, 2002. The dog food plant received another $450,000 from KEDDO, according to records.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.