Ben McDonald had a farm that he was tired of operating. Fortunately for McDonald, his land was located just outside the city limits of New Las Vegas, the largest city in the State of Corruption. Because of New Las Vegas’s rapid growth, the McDonald farm was a prime prospect for real estate development. So McDonald placed an ad in a local paper to see what kind of interest there might be in his property. The ad generated dozens of inquiries from parties interested in buying the farm. Unfortunately, none of the developers seemed able to afford the price McDonald was hoping to get. So McDonald decided to enter more serious negotiations with the city of New Las Vegas, which had plenty of cash and a reputation for not managing the city money very carefully. McDonald hoped to get at least $400,000, so he decided he might as well start negotiations by asking for $500,000. On June 1, he hand-delivered a letter to the city of New Las Vegas in which he offered to sell his farm for $500,000 cash. The letter contained a legal description of the farm, and it specified a closing date of July 1 for payment of the price and delivery of a deed. It also contained the following paragraph: “I am anxious to sell this property and have many other interested parties lined up so you must accept by June 10 or this offer expires.”
On June 3, the city council of New Las Vegas met in emergency session and approved the purchase of the McDonald farm on the terms stated in McDonald’s letter. As authorized by the Council, the Mayor of New Las Vegas, Bill Schmoke, prepared a letter accepting McDonald’s offer. Given Schmoke’s usual relaxed attitude toward bureaucratic matters, it took several days to get the letter in final form. However, on June 8, Schmoke deposited the letter at the New Las Vegas Post Office, paid the postal clerk the proper postage, and instructed the clerk to send the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested. The letter arrived at McDonald’s farm on June 10, and the letter carrier obtained a written receipt for it from McDonald. This receipt was then returned to Schmoke.
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Before the letter arrived, however, McDonald had been busy. On June 7, he had been contacted by John Sludge, the President of the New Las Vegas Waste Management Company. Sludge was interested in buying the McDonald farm for use as a waste disposal site and McDonald concluded his prospects for a deal were better with Sludge than with the city of New Las Vegas. Though McDonald and Sludge had not yet reached a final agreement, on June 9, McDonald sent a telegram to the city, which read as follows: “Offer to sell land is hereby revoked. Have found better deal.” This telegram arrived at Mayor Schmoke’s office on the afternoon of June 9. When the city’s acceptance letter arrived at McDonald’s farm the next day, he threw it in a drawer, called Schmoke and told the Mayor, “Stop kidding yourself. You have no deal.”
On June 15, the city of New Las Vegas filed an action against McDonald in the local state court. The city sought an order of specific performance directing McDonald to convey his farm to the city and enjoining McDonald from conveying it to anyone else. Should the city’s action succeed? State the reasons for your answer, focusing especially on what constitutes offer and acceptance.