Committee sues county over court bonding decision

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 15, 2002

A lawsuit claims the county board’s action to issue non-referendum bonds for the courthouse project was illegal, misrepresenting and fraudulent. The complaint was brought by Freeborn County Committee for Fairness

(FCCF), which is suing the county and three commissioners.

Waseca-based attorney Thomas Kraus served the complaint to the county administration last Friday.

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In the complaint, the FCCF claims that the meeting on Aug. 27, where the board decided to rule out bonding with a public referendum and pursue non-referendum bonding options, was in violation of the Open Meeting Law. It also alleges the defendants misrepresented the purpose of the meeting, and falsely and fraudulently, with the intent to deceive and defraud the plaintiff and residents of county, conducted the meeting.

The FCCF is asking the court for a judgment that deems the decision null and void. It also asks three commissioners who voted for the resolution, Dave Mullenbach, Dan Springborg and Mark Behrends, to be fined up to $300, and the county to be responsible for the litigation cost up to $13,000 in accordance with the Open Meeting Law. Further, it calls for injunctive relief to force a referendum on the courthouse bonds.

Kraus regards the meeting violated the Open Meeting Law in two ways: First, the meeting was originally scheduled as a workshop. Second, the meeting was recessed with an announcement that there would be no further action the bonding issue, but later the board took a vote on it.

The Open Meeting Law requires the county to post a written notice about a special board meeting on the principal bulletin board or on the door of meeting room. It also says the notice has to be mailed or delivered to individuals who filed a written request. The county can publish the notice, as an alternative to mailing, in the official newspaper at least three days before the meeting.

The FCCF was formed as an extension of Save the ’54 Building Committee after the board had decided to demolish the building. The complaint does not specify any individual member as the plaintiff. Kraus refused to disclose the participants in the litigation.