City Treated Dentist Fairly, Disputes His Claim for Taxpayer Money

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

​Yesterday, a public relations firm hired by lawyers for Dr. Allan Bergano, a Virginia Beach dentist who is moving his office from Witchduck Road, issued a news release with incorrect and misleading information, and left out important background information. The City of Virginia Beach would like to set the record straight.

In September 2014, the city bought an office building and property at 256 N. Witchduck Road. Dr. Bergano did not own the building, but he was a tenant there on a month-to-month lease. Bergano was the only tenant remaining in the building when the city bought it. Tenants who relocated prior to the city’s purchase found new offices without seeking or receiving relocation assistance from the city. 

The city then renovated and updated the building. The city’s Human Services Department moved some of its operations into the renovated building from rented offices elsewhere.

Originally, the city believed it would need the entire building space, so city officials asked Dr. Bergano to begin looking for a new location. Several months later, the city determined it did not need the entire building and told Dr. Bergano in August 2015 – nearly a year ago – that he could stay. The city did not force Dr. Bergano to move, nor did it evict him. In fact, the city offered Dr. Bergano a new five-year lease at below-market rent. Instead, Dr. Bergano has voluntarily chosen to move to a new location.

The city took several steps to accommodate Dr. Bergano, including: marking several parking spots for his office’s exclusive use; paying $2,500 to compensate a real estate broker that Dr. Bergano engaged to search for a new office; offering to compensate Dr. Bergano and his wife for their personal time spent looking for a new office, as well as any other contractual expenses that were undertaken during their search. Dr. Bergano declined this offer. 

Dr. Bergano now claims he is entitled to receive taxpayer money to move to a new office, and he compares himself to three other dentists who received city relocation assistance some years ago when their buildings were acquired for road projects. Dr. Bergano’s situation is not similar to that of the other dentists. The other dental practices were in buildings that were subsequently demolished for a road project and they could not continue their dental practices in non-existent buildings. 

Dr. Bergano was a tenant on a month-to-month lease in the Witchduck building, which is still available for his use as a dental practice, and which he has in fact used for over a year after the city purchased it. 

The news release issued by Dr. Bergano’s public relations firm contained incorrect or misleading information on several points.  

The lawsuit: The press release incorrectly said Judge Henry Morgan has rejected the city’s motion to dismiss the case. Actually, Judge Morgan has not ruled on the motion. It is pending. The city contends that Dr. Bergano was not displaced by the road project because he is voluntarily choosing to leave the building. That is not a technicality. That is the very heart of the dispute.

The April hearing: The press release quotes Judge Morgan’s remarks at a hearing in April. At that very preliminary hearing, the judge was required to rely on Dr. Bergano’s allegations as if they were facts, and the city did not have an opportunity to present its evidence. The city’s side will be presented at a future hearing, or at trial in November.

The building: The press release incorrectly said the city determined the building “was no longer fit for business use.” Actually, the city found the building was perfectly useable, but required renovation to house city offices. In fact, the building is currently being used for city services and Dr. Bergano’s dental practice.

Dr. Bergano’s office: The news release incorrectly said Dr. Bergano was forced out of his office. Actually, the city bought the building from the owner and, after determining it did not need Dr. Bergano’s space, offered the dentist a new five-year lease to stay there. Dr. Bergano declined the offer. 

Lawyers for the city are in ongoing talks with Dr. Bergano’s lawyers to find a resolution that is fair to both taxpayers and Dr. Bergano. The case is scheduled to go to trial in U.S. District Court in November.

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