Parties reach agreement in city lawsuit
Insurance company to pay $2,500 to three businesses
After three hours of mediation on Monday, the insurance company for the city of Tonganoxie and owners of three downtown businesses agreed to settle a federal lawsuit.
As part of the settlement, the insurance company will pay the businesses $2,500 each, for a total of $7,500.
At its Oct. 13 meeting, the Tonganoxie City Council is scheduled to ratify the settlement.
The business owners -- Don Pelzl, John Lenahan and Phyllis and Roger Shilling -- filed suit last November in U.S. District Court alleging the city had violated the business owners' civil rights by boycotting their companies.
The settlement was ironed out Monday morning at a mediation hearing in Topeka, according to Mike Crow, city attorney. Mediation is required in all federal civil cases.
"Everybody dealt in good faith," Crow said. "It was a true win-win."
Crow said the two sides agreed to a statement.
"The parties acknowledge there had been past conflicts regarding the future of Tonganoxie," Crow said. "Those disagreements detracted from all of the positive things that are happening in our community and what the businesses within the community have accomplished. And the city and the business owners -- John Lenahan, Roger and Phyllis Shilling and Don Pelzl -- and those who supported them have elected to look toward the future and put the conflict in the past.
"The city wants all of our community to support all of its local businesses, including those three businesses, as we grow in the future."
Once payment is made to the business owners, the lawsuit will be dismissed, Crow said.
But money wasn't the issue, according to Pelzl.
"It was a matter of principle for us," he said. "But you can't get people's attention if you don't ask for anything. ... We're satisfied. And we just hope that we can continue to make changes in the city government so stupid stuff like that doesn't happen again.
"In a lot of ways, we blame the city council at that time. They had a chance to stop it, and none of them did. There are people on the city council now who had nothing to do with this."
New members of the city's governing body are Velda Roberts and Ron Cranor, along with Mayor Dave Taylor.
The business owners had alleged that the city boycotted their businesses because of the owners' criticism of a downtown improvement project.
The lawsuit had been filed against the city, as well as former Mayor John Franiuk, Crow and former City Administrator Chris Clark. Crow and Clark had been dismissed earlier as defendants in the suit because they had not been properly notified of the suit.