The Indiana Court of Appeals recently ruled on the lawsuit between the City of Lawrenceburg and a local developer running for mayor.
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a Dearborn County judge’s ruling in a case between the City of Lawrenceburg and a candidate for mayor and his business partner.
Steve Linkmeyer is seeking the Republican nomination for mayor in the city’s May 7 primary election. He and former city councilman Mike Lawrence are challenging incumbent Mayor Kelly Mollaun in the three-way race.
Linkmeyer owes the city $3.17 million, plus interest, for a $3 million loan attached to a botched development agreement between his company, Linkmeyer Development, and the city.
In 2009, then mayor Bill Cunningham and former Lawrenceburg Municipal Utilities director signed a letter promising to have the city annex and run utilities to the 77-acre Waterview development. However, the following city administration and city council did not live up to the promise by failing to run water and sewer lines to the development.
No utility availability crippled the Waterview development and leaving him on the hook for $3 million. The city would later foreclose on Linkmeyer Development.
Linkmeyer Development sued in 2015, but the city filed a successful counterclaim. Dearborn County Circuit Court Judge James D. Humphrey granted the city summary judgment in November 2016. Linkmeyer appealed.
On March 28, a three judge panel at the Indiana Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the local judge did not err in his 2016 decision. Linkmeyer did not adequately present his arguments, the judges determined.
“Linkmeyer has not met its burden of persuasion to show that the City failed to negate an element of Linkmeyer’s breach of contract or promissory estoppel claims, and we thus cannot say that the entry of summary judgment for the City was erroneous,” Judge Edward W. Najam, Jr. wrote in the appellate court’s decision.
In a statement regarding the Court of Appeals decision, Linkmeyer and business partner Brian Bischoff say the courts are siding with the City of Lawrenceburg because city council did not independently ratify a utility agreement for the development in 2009, even though Cunningham and Davis, the former mayor and utility director, respectively, signed a letter stating the city would provide utilities.
“It was this legal loophole that prompted the courts to rule in favor of the City. Linkmeyer and Bischoff were unrepresented at the time. They trusted City government. They now recognize that doing so was a costly mistake,” the statement read.
“The City benefitted significantly from the addition of the Waterview Apartments to its tax base. Now it has benefitted again by ducking a roughly One Million Dollar obligation to run utilities. In both cases, they have Linkmeyer and Bischoff to thank.”
Though its wording sounds conciliatory, the Linkmeyer and Bischoff statement did not indicate whether they plan to appeal further to the Indiana Supreme Court.
In a separate but related legal matter, Linkmeyer and Bischoff filed a lawsuit last month against Lawrenceburg city attorney Del Weldon alleging statements he made to Eagle Country 99.3 and on Facebook were defamatory. They also submitted a tort claim notice to Mayor Mollaun and city council seeking damages.
The city has 90 days to approve or deny Bischoff and Linkmeyer’s claim. If denied, the businessmen could then file a lawsuit against Lawrenceburg.