Developer’s breach of contract cut funding, reduced charity’s work
(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) – Will Ferguson & Associates filed a $97 million lawsuit on behalf of the Atrisco Heritage Foundation charging breach of contract by a California development company that cut off funding for the foundation’s charitable work.
The SunCal Company of Irvine, Calif., made a $100 million commitment to the foundation in 2006 when selected as the winning bidder to buy 55,000 acres of Atrisco Land Grant land in the South Valley and on the western edge of Albuquerque. But the company cut off funding in 2010 after paying only $3 million.
The lawsuit, filed in Bernalillo County District Court by Will Ferguson & Associates attorney David M. Houliston and co-counsel Parrish Collins of Collins and Collins P.C., alleges breach of contract, misrepresentation and other counts.
The Atrisco Heritage Foundation was created to perform educational and charitable work in preserving the 300-year-old tradition of the people who lived on the Atrisco Land Grant, land given to early Spanish settlers in New Mexico.
In addition to its offering price, SunCal’s commitment to preserve the culture of the Hispanic people whose ancestors lived and farmed the Atrisco Land Grant was an important factor in choosing SunCal over other bidders. “It is safe to say the $100 million was a significant piece of the bargain,” Houliston said.
When SunCal cut off funding in 2010, it killed dozens of educational and cultural programs operated by the 501(c)3 nonprofit – including scholarships, grade-school tutoring, genealogy research, youth summer camps, theatrical productions, art projects and elder oral histories.
“This suit is important not only to the foundation and its heirs, it is important to New Mexico as the Atrisco Land Grant was and remains an important part of New Mexico history,” said Atrisco Heritage Foundation Executive Director Peter Sanchez.
“The whole idea was that even though the land had been sold, the land would keep giving to the community — but it all ended after three years,” Sanchez said.
There are 25,000 identified heirs of the original settlers of the Atrisco Land Grant, but as many as twice that number may be scattered through New Mexico and the United States.
The Atrisco Land Grant of 1692, also known as La Merced, was one of several large grants of land the viceroyalty of Spain awarded to Spanish colonists in the New World. The grant covered the west of Albuquerque between the Rio Grande and Rio Puerco.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the U.S. war with Mexico in 1848, ceded most of the American Southwest to the U.S., but a clause within the treaty guaranteed that the U.S. government would recognize existing land grants. Through the latter half of the 20th Century, the Atrisco Land Grant was administered under a company called the Westland Corp.
The Will Ferguson & Associates Law Firm represents people seriously injured by the negligence of others and the families of persons who die because of the negligence of others. For more information, contact Will Ferguson & Associates, (505) 243-5566 or 1 (800) 251-5566. Will Ferguson & Associates maintains two offices in Albuquerque and an office in Amarillo, Texas, to serve families and people injured in Texas. That office is at 2901 I-40 West, Amarillo, Texas 79109. The Amarillo phone number is 806-374-4024.