A special-interest group committed to ending primate testing for scientific research filed a lawsuit with a Madison property owner Oct. 18.
The Primate Freedom Project is taking legal action against Roger Charly — owner of Budget Bicycles — after he agreed to sell the land between two University of Wisconsin campus facilities collectively known as the "The Primate Buildings" and then withdrew from the agreement in favor of a larger offer from a university-affiliated development company.
PFP is seeking to use the land to build a primate-research exhibit "illuminating the inhumane practice of using primates in scientific research" on the property. The land is situated between the National Institutes of Health's Wisconsin National Primate Research Center and the University of Wisconsin Harlow Primate Laboratory.
Richard McLellan, a PFP supporter from Los Angeles, signed an agreement with Charly in May stating he could purchase the land for $675,000.
Yet the official complaint states that on Aug. 1, an attorney representing Charly notified McLellan a third party affiliated with UW, URP Development LLC, had offered $1 million to purchase the property and the original agreement was not binding.
Because the agreement was an "option" as opposed to an official bid and, further, does not formally offer anything in its wording, Charly's attorney, Jon Manzo, said it does not obligate the sale of the land to McLellan at the said amount.
"It's not an enforceable option," he said. "They could walk away and you know what [Charly] gets? Nothing."
Manzo added he sent a letter notifying McLellan of the proposition, giving him the option to counter-offer, but it was never returned.
"I gave them a grocery list of things we wanted changed, and they never came back to us with an offer," Manzo said.
Charly offered to sell McLellan and others at PFP a similar property a block away from the original site, but Manza said he received no response.
"We gave them a chance to cure the problem," he said. "They didn't do it."
McLellan and others connected with PFP believe the original agreement — drafted by attorneys hired by McLellan and project representatives who are not represented in the case — is legally binding. They believe any sort of counterproposal on the land is invalid.
Rick Bogle, a Madison native who initially proposed the idea of the exhibition center between the two properties to McLellan, is also a plaintiff in the case and said he believes UW will stop at nothing to prevent the project from acquiring the land.
"I think the $1 million offer is just the first chip on the table," he said.
After signing the original offer, Bogle said himself, McLellan and others were under the impression the land was already entitled to them and decided not to put money down to pursue further fundraising measures.
"At that point, we thought we had a lock on the property," he said. "I wanted the opportunity to have a little money in hand."
However, once he was notified of the counter "option," Bogle said he assumed — and still does — the university pressured Charly into considering a larger offer.
"We were surprised," he said. "My guess is university attorneys are with him. … We'll see how good they are."