Former Suwanee mayor responds to civil lawsuit in land dispute

In response to a lawsuit filed by a group of local landowners, former Suwanee Mayor Nick Masino has denied allegations that he undermined a deal to sell a piece of property in Suwanee to a private Catholic school in 2008.

The response asks that Masino "be discharged [from the lawsuit] without cost or liability" and his legal costs and attorneys' fees be covered by the plaintiff, Settles Bridge Farm LLC. Masino, now vice president of the Economic Development and Partnership Gwinnett, filed his response Tuesday in Gwinnett County Superior Court.

Settles Bridge's lawsuit accuses Masino, mayor of Suwanee from 1999 to 2007, of advising city officials in February 2008 to block the relocation of Notre Dame Academy in Duluth to the property in the Moore Road area of Suwanee.

Notre Dame Academy eventually backed out of the contract with Settles Bridge Farm LLC, after the city ordered a moratorium on building permits in February. Attorneys for Settles Bridge estimate that the collapse of the deal cost their client as much as $4 million.

Simon Bloom, attorney for Settles Bridge, wasn't immediately available for comment.

Masino's 11-page response rebuffs most of Settles Bridge's charges with the exception of generally-accepted facts, such as his address, occupation and the venue and jurisdiction of the court.

Most notably, Masino denied that he "contacted, induced, coerced, pressured and/or conspired" with Suwanee officials to block the school's relocation.

Masino also claimed that he "is without knowledge or information" about an email sent to the Suwanee mayor and city council on Feb. 27, 2008, that allegedly said residents would "probably go nuts" over the school's relocation. Additionally, Masino said he did not advise city officials to amend the zoning ordinance, which blocked Settles Bridge's sale of the property to Notre Dame.

A message left at Masino's office wasn't immediately returned Friday afternoon.