Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

Apr 27, 2013

Current Cases of the City Attorney's Office

These are current or recent cases involving the City Attorney's office.

Highmark, Inc, vs City of Rapid City vs Northwest Pipe Company | Hookah Lounges and Smoking | Building Code Violations | Challenge to Invocation Before Council Meetings | Meidinger v. City of Rapid City et al.

Highmark, Inc vs City of Rapid City vs Northwest Pipe Company

Rapid City construction company Highmark, Inc. installed water pipes in early 2010 as part of a project involving the Jackson Springs water treatment plant. Construction was halted by the City in July 2010, however, when tests revealed the lining of the water pipes was defective. Construction was unable to resume until the following spring, causing Highmark, Inc. to miss their completion deadline. The City of Rapid City assessed the construction company over $300,000 in fines for missing the original completion date.

Highmark, Inc. filed suit against Northwest Pipe in November 2010, claiming the company had sold them defective materials; Highmark, Inc. also sued the City of Rapid City in March 2012 for withholding payment that equaled the amount of their fines.

Northwest Pipe Company filed a counter suit against Highmark, Inc. in January 2011. The City of Rapid City filed a counter suit against Highmark, Inc. in May 2012. At this time, the City of Rapid City also filed a complaint against Northwest Pipe Company. Depositions in these cases are ongoing, and no trial dates have been announced yet.

UPDATE: As of August 2013, the case is headed to mediation in October to try to resolve the dispute. In May 2014, a settlement was passed, with Rapid City keeping a portion of the withheld payment to cover costs of additional engineering, and Highmark receiving the balance.

Additional resources about this case:

BHKN Archive - More coverage of the Jackson Springs Water Treatment Plant


Hookah Lounges and Smoking

In April 2012, the Rapid City Police Department began enforcing the statewide smoking ban at Ifrit's Hookah Lounge on recommendation from the Pennington County Attorney's office. The establishment was instructed to stop selling alcohol or stop allowing their customers to smoke on the premises, as per the language of the statewide ban. In June 2012, Ifrit's was denied a renewal of their beer license by the Rapid City council. The owners of Ifrit's have since filed civil suit against Pennington County and the City of Rapid City over the smoking ban, as well as filing an appeal of the decision to deny their beer license renewal.

In November 2012, the City Attorney's office brought forth a new ordinance which would impose strict regulations on hookah lounges. The ordinance was tabled the following month, pending the outcome of the civil action to determine whether hookah lounges should be included in the statewide smoking ban.

A hearing was held on April 23, 2013 in the civil lawsuit against Rapid City. A trial date was set for August 14-15, 2013.

UPDATE: A trial on Ifrit's request for a declaratory judgment was scheduled for October 16th and 17th, 2013. Judge Jeff Davis gave both sides the opportunity to write up their opinions on hookah smoke. On November 21st, Judge Davis ruled in favor of the defendants, upholding the ban on Ifrit's Hookah Lounge selling alcohol.

Additional resources regarding this case-

BHKN Archive - Follow the evolution of the case against hookah

Senate Bill 114 - Information regarding the Bill proposed by the Senate which attempted to define "smoking"

South Dakota Smoking Ban - Details about the legislation that imposed the statewide smoking ban

Judgment on case

Findings of Fact

Memorandum Decision


Building Code Violations

In an effort to improve housing conditions around Rapid City, a new Assistant City Attorney position was added to concentrate on code enforcement cases. As a result of the increased focus on code enforcement, the City Attorney’s office filed a lawsuit against property owner Sam Marris. In mid-2012, Marris was contacted by the Assistant City Attorney regarding code violations. Marris failed to make the necessary improvements to his multiple properties. As a result, Marris will be the first landlord prosecuted for housing code violations. A trial for this case is scheduled for August 2013.

Additional resources regarding this case:

BHKN Archive - Follow coverage of housing in Rapid City

BHKN "Housing Inspections" page  - General information about housing inspections in Rapid City, building codes and links to other resources


Challenge to Invocation Before City Countil Meetings

In January 2013 the Rapid City council received a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation stating that there had been a complaint against the council’s tradition of invocation before meetings. In response, the City Attorney’s office drafted a policy in defense of the invocation. The City Attorney also presented a memo to the council containing six options regarding prayer before meetings.

In April 2013, the council voted to pursue the sixth option, that of adopting no formal policy about the invocation. The council will continue to defend the invocation as a tradition. The City Attorney was instructed by the council to communicate with national organizations that had offered their support in the event of a lawsuit. The findings are to be presented to the council in June 2013.

Update: In May 2014, the United States Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision, Town of Greece v. Galloway, upholding the legality of council prayers.

Additional resources regarding this case:

BHKN Archive - Follow the history of the invocation debate

Freedom From Religion Foundation -Official website of the group who brought forward the complaint

 

Meidinger v. City of Rapid City, et al.

In 2009, then-Alderman Sam Kooiker investigated allegations that Fish Garbage Services was not paying the correct dumping fees. The investigation produced criminal charges against the owners of Fish Garbage and some landfill employees. Randy Meidinger, a landfill scales operator,  was charged with forgery and grand theft. He was acquitted by a grand jury, but fired.

Following the acquittal, Meidinger filed a lawsuit against the City of Rapid City, Mayor Sam Kooiker, then-Police Chief Steve Allender, former Landfill Supervisor John Leahy, and Police Lieutenant Pete Ragnone (Ragnone had led the investigation at the landfill). Meidinger asserted that his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated. On September 23, 2014, Chief U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken issued a summary judgement on the case, and an order explaining his decision. In the ruling, Judge Viken dismissed the suit against all defendants except Ragnone, ruling that they had qualified immunity. Against Ragnone, Judge Viken dismissed the claim about Fourteenth Amendment, but ruled the suit could go forward on the Fourth Amendment claim, as Meidinger had asserted that Ragnone had provided false testimony to the grand jury.


Additional Links and Resources-

Rapid City Mayor and City Council  - Contact information, meeting agendas and minutes, and other information for the mayor and council of Rapid City.

Rapid City Attorney's Office  - Contact information for the City Attorney's Office of Rapid City.

Rapid City Legal & Finance Committee  - Contact information and meeting agendas/minutes for the Legal & Finance Committee

Update on Major Litigation - August 20, 2013 update on ongoing cases involving the city

BHKN Archive-
City Council - Latest news regarding the Rapid City council
City Attorney  - Latest news regarding the City Attorney's office

Legal & Finance Committee - Latest news regarding the Legal & Finance Committee

 

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