City suit to go to trial

By The Mercury

A civil suit between supporters of a 2012 initiative to fund social services agencies and the city of Manhattan will go to trial after a motion of summary judgment was denied Wednesday. The case will continue to trial in June.

Members of the group SOS, for “Save Our Social Services,” filed the motion of summary judgment-a written request for judgment in their favor prior to the lawsuit going to trial on the basis that all factual and legal issues can be decided -in the first week of April through attorney Ron Schneider.

In the city’s response to the plaintiff’s motion, attorney Bill Frost argued that there are disputed facts in the case and wrote, “If reasonable minds could differ as to the conclusions drawn from evidence, summary judgment must be denied.”

The lawsuit came about after the City Commission last year decided to reduce funding to certain local social services agencies. In response, the group wrote a proposed ordinance that would require the city to allocate 2 percent of the city’s general fund to social service agencies and establish a social services advisory board.

When commissioners did not adopt that proposal, SOS members collected the 1,500 resident signatures required to force the commission to put it to a referendum. The petition was validated by the county clerk’s office.

But at a commission meeting in June, Katie Jackson, then the city attorney, told commissioners the measure was classified as an “administrative ordinance” and therefore could not be adopted through the petition/referendum process. Jackson’s office advised the commission to take no further action.

The motion for summary judgment on Wednesday was presented to District Judge John Bosch, who determined the matter should go to trial. It will begin on June 18.

Jeff Gauthier, Nancy Goulden, Karen Hummel and Thomas Kerrigan are named as plaintiffs in the suit.

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