Plaintiffs agree to dismiss their claims after the City responds to the lawsuit in district court
The Rice County District Court issued an order on September 12, 2023 dismissing a lawsuit commenced by six plaintiffs who had challenged the City of Northfield’s issuance and sale of street improvement bonds.
The dismissal represented the court’s approval of an agreement reached last week between the City and the plaintiffs. After the City responded to the lawsuit and sought a court order requiring the plaintiffs to provide a surety bond to protect the City from the increased costs it faced due to delay and restructuring its bond sale that were entirely attributable to the pending litigation, the plaintiff’s attorney sought the city’s agreement to dismiss the lawsuit.
Ben Martig, Northfield’s city administrator, welcomed the dismissal of the lawsuit, but expressed frustration that “the plaintiff’s attorney’s abuse of the legal process to aid his media campaign attacking the City Council and individual city officials, elected and unelected, has regrettably inflamed tensions and fostered division in the community. This lawsuit attacking the city’s sale of bonds to pay for these citywide projects was destined to fail and served no purpose other than to harm the City and its residents and businesses by undermining public trust and driving up the city’s legal bills.”
The dismissal was “with prejudice,” which means the case may not be refiled, and will allow the City to move forward with its planned issuance and sale of the bonds without further complications.
Northfield Mayor Rhonda Pownell said, “I understand that this outcome may be disappointing for some, specifically some of those who opposed certain aspects of the street improvement projects or signed the petition seeking an election on the city’s sale of bonds; but the council heard their concerns and weighed them thoughtfully along with comments heard from others in the community who did not necessarily hold similar viewpoints. Ultimately, we felt we made a decision that was in the best interest of the entire community.”
Mayor Pownell added, “Our mission now, as a community, must be to come together to continue our important work of making Northfield stronger while balancing the pride we take in our heritage with the positive energy we hold for the future to keep Northfield a place that we all love.”
“The court’s dismissal of the lawsuit was the correct result under the law,” commented Robert Scott, attorney with Flaherty & Hood, P.A., which serves as the Northfield city attorney. “The City Council and city staff acted appropriately in accordance with their legal obligations at all times during the development and approval of the city’s 2023 street improvement projects and funding mechanisms, and we are confident the court would have reached this conclusion had plaintiffs’ counsel allowed the court to decide the case on the merits.”
Mayor Pownell concluded, “There are a number of exciting projects underway or under consideration that will make Northfield an even better community in the years ahead. We are continuing to find ways to give residents a voice in our planning processes, especially giving greater input upstream. I encourage everyone to sign up for notifications from the City on our website to learn of ways that you can provide additional perspectives on a variety of projects. One such opportunity is the upcoming update to our Comprehensive Plan, which will have a tremendous impact on shaping the future of Northfield over the long term.”
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