Developer Michael Hacikyan, who accused City of Tonawanda Mayor Rick Davis of cursing him and tossing him out of his office several months ago, is now threatening to sue over an April Fools' Day comment that Davis posted about Hacikyan on Facebook.
Davis falsely wrote on a Tonawanda community group page on Facebook a post that Hacikyan had decided to give the former HSBC building his company owns to the City of Tonawanda because "who knew developing could be so difficult" and that he is glad to be rid of the former bank because "I didn't want Mayor Davis to swear at me again for looking for a handout."
At the end of his lengthy post, Davis wrote, "Happy April Fools Day."
Hacikyan was not amused. An attorney for Hacikyan and his Aquasol company served the Common Council with papers this week that contend Davis made "defamatory and libelous statements in a Facebook posting" about Hacikyan. Attorney Deborah J. Chadsey said told the Council she is preparing a complaint on Hacikyan's behalf and demanded the city preserve any records related to the Facebook message.
Chadsey told The Buffalo News they have not filed a lawsuit, but she said it a possibility.
"Last I heard, parody was protected under free speech," Davis told The Buffalo News on Wednesday. He said his comment about Hacikyan remains posted on a closed group site on Facebook.
"Some people takes things too seriously, but if you are not having fun at your job then it's just work," added Davis.
The mayor's post on Facebook said that Hacikyan thought Mayor Davis would "throw taxpayer money at me to fix up the building."
This is not the first time Hacikyan has sent a letter through his attorney to the Council. In March the developer asked for an apology and said he put a hold on developing the former bank building because the mayor cursed at him and tossed him out of his office on Feb. 23.
Davis previously told The News that he did swear at Hacikyan and told him to leave his office when their meeting got contentious and has claimed that the developer launched a profanity laced tirade at him. Davis also has expressed frustration that development on the project has languished for five years.
Councilman Tim Toth, who has announced his plans to run against Davis for mayor, has waded into the fray between Hacikyan and Davis.
He held his news conference to announce his election bid in front of the former HSBC Bank and said he has met with Hacikyan to discuss plans for the building, but would not elaborate on the plans.
Toth said Hacikyan has never asked for money from the city, despite what the mayor claimed in his Facebook post. Toth said Hacikyan wants to bury phone lines at the site and is looking for help from the city to act as an intermediary in his dealings with Verizon.
"My concerns is that as this drags out, other developers will see what's going on and won't want to come to Tonawanda to invest money," said Toth. "It's reckless to treat a potential businessman and building owner this way."
Davis said development of the former HSBC building has become politicized and said , "My office is ready and willing to work with anyone who wants to work with us and is ready to move forward on any shovel-ready projects."