Fire truck suit has little merit: Attorney

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Cloverdale Town Council attorney Scott Hoff doesn't think one of the many lawsuits the town is facing holds much water.

Recently, council for Simon Fire Equipment and Repair, Inc., Iowa, filed a lawsuit in Indiana for breach of contract. The lawsuit had originally been filed in Iowa, but was dismissed.

At a special meeting in June, the council voted 3-2 to have Hoff file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, with council members Dennis Padgett, Glenn Vickroy and Don Sublett voting yes. Council members John Davis and Judy Whitaker both voted no.

On Wednesday, Hoff told the BannerGraphic he believed the lawsuit was based on a letter former council president Davis had sent to Simon Fire representative Dale Bush stating the town of Cloverdale had accepted its bid for the 2001 demo fire truck for $229,990.63.

In the letter, Davis stated the council had voted in favor of purchasing the truck, subject to favorable financing.

In addition, Hoff told the BannerGraphic on Wednesday that the letter was not a contract, and the lawsuit was for breach of contract.

Hoff said he believed a hearing could be set soon.

"I would think in the next two weeks," he said. "But everything else is on hold."

The lawsuit was originally filed in Dubuque, Iowa, on Oct. 27, 2005, in regard to breach of contract after the town council had voted to accept a bid from Simon Fire Equipment and Repair, Inc., Iowa, to purchase the fire truck.

The lawsuit stated that on or about April 2005, the town began a bidding process to purchase one fire truck from Simon Fire. A resolution was signed by all five council members on April 12. Four of the members voted to buy a fire truck. Sublett was absent from the meeting.

On June 8, 2005, the town council conducted a special meeting and, according to the lawsuit, accepted a bid from Simon Fire to furnish the fire truck. At the meeting, Whitaker motioned to accept the bid, subject to favorable financing, with Sublett giving the second. The motion passed, 3-1-1, with Whitaker, Sublett and Davis voting yes. Padgett voted no while Vickroy abstained.

The town was informed by its financial advisor, Krohn and Associates, that there was favorable financing at the time, setting up a public meeting on July 19 to vote on a bond issue for financing. However, financing of the bond issue for the fire truck was voted down, 3-2, with Padgett, Sublett and Vickroy voting no at the special session.

In November 2005, Sublett, Padgett and Vickroy filed the response, asking they be dismissed from the lawsuit.

The trio's response stated that Simon Fire brought a lawsuit against the town, rather than against individual members of the town council.

The response continued stating Whitaker and Davis made decisions and acted independently of the town council and that the three had received the letter Davis wrote.

The response from the three council members said they were not "comfortable" with the letter, and the letter was sent without their knowledge or approval.

In January 2006, the lawsuit was dismissed in Iowa. On Jan. 20, a court ruling noted the Iowa court agreed with Cloverdale that it did not have personal jurisdiction over the town, and the town's contacts with Iowa were minimal.

The court ruled the case should be tried in Indiana, as most of the parties involved and key documents were in Indiana.

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