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International Falls mayor aims to join lawsuit against his city

INTERNATIONAL FALLS — The International Falls mayor is seeking to join a lawsuit against the city he leads, saying it’s an attempt to uphold the city charter.

Mayor Bob Anderson filed an affidavit to join the lawsuit that began in April alleging the city charter was violated in 2012 when the council hired then-Mayor Shawn Mason to fill the position of economic and community development director in the city’s Economic Development Authority.

“She had an interest in the contract and position with the city before she left the mayor’s position,” Anderson said.

The lawsuit, originally filed by International Falls resident Thomas Koeneman, is against the city of International Falls, the city’s EDA, Mason and the four current and former city councilors who approved hiring Mason. The lawsuit is asking for Mason’s employment with the city to be voided and for the charter’s penalty to be enacted, disqualifying Mason from holding public office in the future.

Represented by attorneys hired by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, the defendants are denying the lawsuit’s allegations and are requesting the lawsuit be dismissed. The defendants allege in a response to the lawsuit that it’s politically motivated and is “frivolous, vexatious and a sham.”

A jury trial is scheduled for July 2016 in Itasca County District Court. However, Judge Korey Wahwassuck has 90 days to decide on the defense’s request to dismiss the case, after which the judge will consider Anderson’s request to join the lawsuit.

Anderson’s decision to join the lawsuit will increase the costs of the lawsuit and is unnecessary, said Paul Reuvers, a Twin Cities attorney who is one of three attorneys representing the defendants.

The International Falls City Council complied with state law and the city charter, Reuvers said.

“It was open, transparent and the city attorney guided every step on the way on this. Everything was above-board,” Reuvers said.

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