- The Washington Times - Friday, March 3, 2006

DALLAS — Southern Methodist University, where graduate Laura Bush remains an active booster and board of trustees member, is favored to become the site of the coveted George W. Bush presidential library later this year, but recent events have muddled the situation.

A Dallas lawyer, Gary Vodicka, who lives in a condominium complex that SMU is planning to tear down east of the campus, has filed a lawsuit, claiming condemnation of the 347-unit property should not have been allowed and that it’s merely a ploy to clear a spot for the library.

He claims that SMU began buying up condos in 1999, but did nothing to maintain them, with the plan to drive residents out of the complex and make way for the library.

“To acquire the land to build the library, they have breached numerous legal obligations; they’ve intimidated, misrepresented things and kicked old people out of their homes,” said Mr. Vodicka.

He still owns four condos there, living in one of them and renting the other three out.

SMU — from which other top administration officials, including Karen Hughes and Harriet Miers, received degrees — has not acknowledged that the 12-acre tract is where it plans to erect the Bush library should it get the nod.

However, on Feb. 21, SMU Controller John O’Connor testified in an initial hearing on Mr. Vodicka’s suit that the property “is among” those offered in the university’s site proposal.

University officials bristle at accusations that they have acted unfairly. The university claims they quietly began buying the condos when Mr. Bush was still governor, then legally gained control of the board of the homeowners’ association to designate them beyond repair.

“Our purpose has been open and honest and clear,” said Brad Cheves, SMU’s spokesman on the subject.

He called Mr. Vodicka’s suit “a convenient red-herring tactic” and suggested the plaintiff should reveal an offer he made to SMU to sell his four units.

Last month, a civil judge ruled that Mr. Vodicka could send in his own engineering team to inspect all the units in an effort to back up his claim that the units do not need to be bulldozed. SMU commissioned a previous evaluation that recommended clearing the property, after which the university bought it following the University Gardens homeowners’ committee vote to designate it “obsolete.”

Mr. Vodicka, a 1986 graduate of the SMU School of Law, was given 90 days to allow the engineering study. University lawyers said they understood that SMU could begin demolishing the condos immediately after that study was finished.

In the meantime, Mr. Vodicka has subpoenaed details from the other finalist groups’ secret proposals for the library — Texas Tech University, Baylor University and the University of Dallas.

“If the other universities have proposals saying where they are going to put the Bush library, SMU can’t say it doesn’t,” the plaintiff said.

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