Fairfax Telecommunications, Inc., which lost a bitter cable television franchising battle last summer, sued yesterday to have the franchise award overturned in Fairfax County Circuit Court.
The cable company, a partnership between a large Colorado company and a local firm formed specifically to compete for the lucrative Fairfax franchise, sued Fairfax County supervisors and officials and also the company that won the franchise, Media General Cable of Fairfax County Inc. The suit asks that the franchise award be nullified, charging that county and Media General officials unfairly "conspired and cooperated" to allow Media General to improve its application after the filing deadline.
Media General plans to offer service to its first customers late next summer. The lawsuit does not ask for an injunction to delay construction, as some officials had feared, but Fairfax Telecommunications President L. Gary Byrd predicted possible delays nonetheless.
Fairfax officials said yesterday they had not read the suit and could not comment on it. During the battle for the franchise, which a consultant estimated could be worth $260 million in 15 years, the county maintained the two applicants received the same opportunity to "clarify" their proposals.
"It's the same issues that they raised at the board hearing, that the county attorney and supervisors were aware of at the time," said Media General attorney Grayson P. Hanes. "Nothing new in here that I can see."
The lawsuit was signed by two prominent lawyers who are also stockholders in Fairfax Telecommunications, former Virginia state attorney general Andrew P. Miller and Fairfax state Sen. Adelard L. Brault. The suit does not ask for a specific amount of monetary damages, does not allege antitrust violations and does not ask the judge to award the franchise to Fairfax Telecommunications.
Some observers who asked not to be identified said they were surprised at how few legal issues the 4 1/2-page brief raises. A Media General spokeswoman said several weeks ago that she believes Fairfax Telecommunications stockholders only want to pressure Media General to settle the suit so they can recover their investment, but Media General's lawyer said he doubts the company will settle.
"They do not have a history of responding in that way to what they feel is unjustified litigation," Hanes said.