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Founder of Los Angeles Shakespeare Company files $11.9-million claim against L.A. County

February 21, 2009 |  9:28 am

Globeextgold_3Los Angeles Shakespeare Company founder Geoffrey Forward went public Friday with an announcement that he has filed an $11.9-million negligence and inverse condemnation claim against Los Angeles County, claiming that 80 "outrageous acts" on the part of various county departments over the course of several years caused construction delays that led to the foreclosure sale of the company theater, the Globe, in Topanga.

The performing arts facility, which opened in September 2007, was sold at foreclosure auction in August.

In an interview Friday, Forward said the county deliberately delayed building permits and made work stoppage orders on the new building, adding about $600,000 in extra interest and financing costs to the construction of the 3,200-square-foot facility, which includes a 99-seat amphitheater.

Forward said that he and his wife, Elisabeth Howard, were forced to mortgage their home to finance the theater construction and that they were struggling to keep their home from going into foreclosure.

Assistant county counsel Richard Weiss said the county was evaluating the claim. "It is a detailed claim," he said. "My understanding is that Mr. Forward has had the benefit of numerous meetings and communications with county departmental people, and by no means, at this point, do I know anything that would suggest that the county has done anything wrong."

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said his office had worked with Forward to "try to help him realize his goals." Yaroslavsky, who said he rarely comments on such matters, called Forward's claim "without merit."

"He was delayed by his own set of barriers and hurdles that he needed to negotiate, and we tried to help him do it," Yaroslavsky said. "I really am sad about it, because he's a good man, he had a great idea, and I wish he could have made a go of it.... Most of the delays are not of our making."

In filing the claim, Forward says his goal is to get the Globe building back and to reopen it as a Shakespeare theater. "It's a wonderful public resource," he said.

-- Diane Haithman

Photo: The Globe in Topanga. Credit: Geoffrey Forward

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