Kriseman: Negotiations on Rays' future 'difficult' in light of lawsuit against Stu Sternberg

St. Petersburg's mayor is holding off on negotiations with the Tampa Bay Rays owner until the fate of a new lawsuit becomes clear.

Stu Sternberg was sued this week by Rays shareholders who say he is unfairly withholding profits, while also growing his share of control. Sternberg denies the allegations, but Mayor Rick Kriseman still says negotiating right now is impossible.

The allegations in the lawsuit are that Sternberg gave phony reasons for why he couldn't share profits with other stakeholders.

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"Given that the allegations are against him personally for actions he is alleged to have taken, it makes it difficult for us to look at having these negotiations with him," Kriseman said.

While the lawsuit demands Sternberg's removal as owner, the mayor reiterated his call for Sternberg to at least temporarily give up control of the team. 

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After almost six months of little back and forth, the mayor says talks were just about to restart, now that a consultant is onboard to help reach an agreement.

"If we start negotiations and spend the next four to seven months negotiating, and then, through the case, something happens, we might have to start over," said Kriseman. "We just need to get a lot more clarity."

Right now, the mayor's staff is trying to determine whether another allegation in the suit -- that Sternberg was holding secret talks with a Montreal businessman in 2014 -- may have violated their lease with the city. 

The Rays denied the allegations in a statement yesterday, saying they have respected the lease and that the suit is "deceptive and inflammatory and is fraught with error and falsehood."

"We are still trying to do our due diligence and really see if there has been a violation of our use agreement," said Kriseman.

The mayor is narrowing down plans for redeveloping the Tropicana Field site, both with and without a stadium. Councilors will apparently have little guidance on whether the current tenant will be involved.

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Four proposed plans for redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site

"The clock continues to tick and that is what is really a shame about where we are at right now," said Kriseman. "I have said before, despite the starts and stops and some of the issues we have had, and that is all part of negotiation, I have always been optimistic there is a deal to be had and I remain optimistic."

The mayor says he will narrow down proposals from developers on the Trop site by the end of the week. Councilors will have an opportunity to weigh in on those in the next month.

Right now, there is no hearing scheduled for the lawsuit against Stu Sternberg.