CUDAHY — The promoter of the newly opened Silver Saddle Casino has filed a $2-million libel suit against a 70-year-old woman who is leading a drive to make gambling illegal in this city.
Charles King, the club's president, maintains in the suit that Georgia Scrivner inaccurately portrayed him as "incompetent and dishonest" in a petition she circulated to qualify an anti-gambling initiative on the May 13 ballot. Scrivner, who has expressed hopes her crusade will ultimately run King's club out of business, said in an interview this week that she would win a court battle.
"Everything is true that's in that petition," said Scrivner, who was served with the suit Feb. 20.
Maintaining that the libel suit is part of an effort to embarrass her and torpedo the anti-gambling ballot measure, Scrivner said she may file a countersuit against King.
The libel suit marks yet another turn in the long-running saga of the Silver Saddle Casino. Planned as a 100-table poker palace in 1981, the club opened to little fanfare two weeks ago with four gaming tables inside a cinder-block building in south Cudahy that once housed an automobile smog-control station.
696 Signatures Obtained
Although King says he plans to expand the building so it can accommodate 40 tables, a title company is currently attempting to foreclose on the club's two-acre site because the casino promoter has fallen more than $60,000 behind in payments.
Amid all that fuss, Scrivner launched her anti-gambling push. Aided by about two dozen members of four local churches, Scrivner in early January began collecting signatures in order to qualify the initiative for the ballot. In four days, the group gathered 696 signatures for the measure, which would rescind an ordinance passed in December, 1982, that permits the council to license gaming clubs in Cudahy. About 400 signatures were needed to qualify for the ballot.
For Scrivner, battling gambling is nothing new. Two decades ago, she helped lead a successful fight against an effort by Harry Klassman, longtime owner of a Gardena poker club, to legalize gambling in Cudahy.
If anything, Scrivner said, King's libel suit should help win votes for her latest anti-gambling crusade.
"I think the lawsuit is in my favor," said Scrivner, stressing that she is confident she will ultimately be vindicated. "It will make people sympathetic to me. I don't think it could happen at a better time."
King's suit, filed Feb. 7 in Los Angeles Superior Court, said the petition circulated by Scrivner was libelous because it damaged his "good reputation" in the community and painted the casino promoter as "incompetent and dishonest."
Several Specific Charges
Neither King nor his attorney, James L. Rosenberg of Pasadena, could be reached for comment. According to the suit, however, Scrivner made several specific charges in her petition that are false.
The suit alleges that Scrivner was inaccurate by saying gambling proponents "mislead the voters by stating that the city would be receiving approximately $160,000 in monthly revenues" from the club, which had instead "cost the taxpayers of the city over $200,000."
In an interview Monday, Scrivner maintained the statement was true. At the time the petition was circulated, she said, the club had not opened and no fees had flowed into city coffers. Instead, she said, the club has cost taxpayers money on several fronts, among them staff time, legal fees and the cost of running elections dealing with the gambling issue.
King also alleges in the suit that Scrivner's petition falsely suggested that he had "deceived the voters" by saying he had 26 investors and finances of up to $13 million.
King has previously maintained that while he had discussed seeking outside financing, he did not deceive anyone because he never stated that he had actually obtained the money.
Scrivner, however, pointed to statements King has made during council meetings and in newspaper articles as proof that her petition is accurate.
During the Sept. 23, 1983, council meeting, King said he had a "firm commitment" from Seacoast Investment Group, a Virginia-based financial consortium, for $13 million to build the gambling club. A Seacoast official, however, later said in a letter to the City Council that he "was never told" by King that the money was to be used for a casino and that talks with King had involved "simply an offer" and no actual loan commitment. The January, 1984, letter said that Seacoast does not "loan money for illegal or immoral purposes and in our estimation this fit into that category."
News Article Cited
Scrivner also pointed to a July 31, 1983, Los Angeles Times article. It attributes to King a statement that financing for the club would be provided by a group of about 26 private investors. (In subsequent interviews and articles appearing in The Times, King has maintained that no outside investors have purchased an interest in the club.)
The suit also maintains that Scrivner inaccurately stated in her petition that King broke the law by declining to reveal the names of investors so criminal background checks could be done.
Under the city's gambling ordinance, background checks must be done on all investors in the club. King maintains that, since the club has no outside investors, he has not broken a law by failing to submit names to the city for background checks.
Nonetheless, Scrivner again pointed to King's 1983 statement, saying it was proof the club had investors and demonstrated that King had not lived up to requirements of the city's ordinance.