City’s attorney files motion in Hensel lawsuit to prohibit deposing elected officials

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

Paul Reuver, who is representing the city of Little Falls in a lawsuit brought by Robin Hensel, filed a motion to prohibit the deposing of the city’s elected officials.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court by Hensel’s attorney, Larry A. Frost, for allegedly violating her Constitutional rights to free speech, among other reasons, by requiring her to remove signs placed in her yard saying they were against city ordinance, while failing to request other unlawful signs in the city be removed.

The last week of February, depositions were held for Police Chief Greg Schirmers, Police Officer Derrick Nagorski, Public Works Director Jerry Lochner, Finance Officer Lori Kasella, City Administrator Dan Vogt, Park, Recreation and Tree Board Member Jeff Tschida, Planning Commission Member Jean Myers and Heritage Preservation Commission ex-officio member Linda Burggraff.

Hensel’s attorney wants to depose the mayor and members of the City Council.

“Elected officials aren’t subject to discovery,” Reuver said.

He said the motion is scheduled to be heard Thursday, March 21, by a federal magistrate in Duluth.

Ruever also indicated a motion has been filed to dismiss the case entirely, and expects that motion to be heard April 26, also in Duluth.

The initial lawsuit was not brought against the city because of its sign ordinance, but against individual defendants, including Schirmers, Kasella, Lochner and 12 John Does, a complaint related to Hensel’s request that a bench be placed in front of city hall to be rented out for messages and the prohibition of overnight camping in city parks.

Reuver said Frost and Hensel have already agreed to dismiss the parts of the complaint against the individuals and overnight camping in the park.

If the judge doesn’t dismiss the case April 26, Reuver said the case is set to be trial-ready in August, although the case could be called anytime after August.

The court also ordered a settlement conference July 10, to include a representative from the city, a representative from the League of Minnesota Cities, Reuver, Hensel and her attorney. That is standard procedure, Reuver said.

Frost is being assisted by Bruce Fein, a lawyer from Washington, D.C., who specializes in constitutional law.

Reuver’s firm, Iverson, Reuvers, Condon, Bloomington, is retained by the League of Minnesota Cities.