Niagara Gazette

Local News

August 29, 2013

Judge rules in Maid of the Mist's favor, Hornblower legal challenge dismissed

A state supreme court justice from Niagara County has dismissed a legal challenge to the Maid of the Mist Corp.'s ongoing efforts to build a new storage facility on the American side of the Niagara Gorge.

In a decision issued Thursday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Catherine Nugent Panepinto ruled that state officials, including New York State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey and New York Power Authority President and CEO Gil Guiniones, acted appropriately and within the law when they agreed to modify the terms of a 2002 agreement between the state and the Maid to allow the storage facility to be built. 

Hornblower Cruises, a California-based firm that will begin offering boat tours of its own from the Canadian side starting next year, had challenged the legality of a 2012 memorandum of understanding that altered the terms of the Maid's original deal with the state. The company's attorneys argued that state officials entered into the modified agreement without seeking competitive bids for the project as required by law. 

In her ruling, Panepinto noted that the court is compelled to "exercise a high degree of judicial deference to the involved state agencies" and that the court may also "recognize other reasonable interpretations of the work described in the amendment." Panepinto determined that it was "not irrational" for the New York State Comptroller's Office to conclude that the docking facility "does not alter the identity or main purpose of the original contract." Her ruling describes the state comptroller's conclusion that public bidding was not required prior to construction as "reasonable."

"This is just another confirmation that everything was done properly," said Maid attorney Brian Gwitt. "From the Maid of the Mist's standpoint, they believed they did everything properly and this is just confirmation." 

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