The running feud between Allan Bruckner and The Shepherd's House got nastier this week, with the executive director of the mission accusing Bruckner of waging a "vendetta" and practicing "blackmail."
As reported earlier by The EYE, Bruckner - a businessman and former Bend mayor who owns the Whistle Stop Business Center next door to the mission on Division Street - filed an appeal in early February challenging the City of Bend's approval of an emergency increase in beds at the mission, which provides shelter, food and training for homeless men. Bruckner said city staff didn't follow proper procedure in okaying the increase from 32 beds to 60.
Last week, Bruckner filed an appeal on the same grounds with the state Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). That made three appeals filed by Bruckner; an earlier one filed with LUBA in January 2007 is still pending.
Bruckner has claimed shelter residents are responsible for graffiti, litter and vandalism to nearby buildings. Shepherd's House Executive Director Lynda Johnson has denied those charges - and on Friday she told The EYE that she believes Bruckner is waging a "vendetta" because the mission didn't agree to buy Bruckner's Whistle Stop property back in 2006.
A draft agreement between Bruckner and The Shepherd's House dated Oct. 6, 2006 contains a clause stating: "The City of Bend's Planning Department is in the process of issuance of the approval for [The Shepherd's House], subject to the appeals process. Seller [Bruckner] or Seller's representative hereby agrees not to appeal the City's approval of the Shepherd's House use of the Woolen Mill property now or during the appeals process or anytime hereafter."
But The Shepherd's House decided not to purchase the Whistle Stop property, according to Johnson, because the $2.5 million asking price plus the cost of modifying it for access by the disabled was more than the mission could afford.
Johnson charged that Bruckner's continuing fight against the mission is in retaliation for not going through with the deal. "Frankly, I think it's a personal vendetta with him," she said. "To me, that smacks of blackmail."
"I think that's absolutely absurd," Bruckner said in response to Johnson's accusation, maintaining that the failed real estate deal "has no bearing whatsoever" on his decision to file appeals against the mission.
Bruckner added that he "never felt they were really interested" in buying the Whistle Stop. "That's so far off base - I never considered that [offer] the slightest bit serious."
Johnson said she's sorry the shelter has to spend money fighting Bruckner's appeals while it has other financial burdens, including opening a thrift shop.
"We're going to have to fight it," she said. "Unfortunately this comes at a very bad time for us. Financially we don't want to take away from the work we're doing to fight this, but that's what we've got to do."
Meanwhile, Bruckner's Whistle Stop property is still on the market and the asking price is still $2.5 million, which Bruckner said is its appraised value.
Bruckner said he hasn't had even a nibble on the property in a year, and blamed that on the presence of The Shepherd's House. "It's looking junkier all the time," he said.