CROFTON — It looks as though it will be up to a judge to determine whether some actions taken last December and January by the Crofton City Council were legal.
Daniel Hendrix and Charlie Hendrix, doing business as Hendrix Law Firm, have filed a lawsuit against the City of Crofton seeking $96,010 in funds they allege they are owed, plus attorney fees and other costs for what they believe was an illegal termination of them by the Crofton City Council.
The Hendrixes filed a four-page lawsuit in Knox County District Court on May 29. Among other things, the Hendrixes allege that the Crofton City Council’s actions in January to void their contract with the city was illegal.
The lawsuit states, among other things, the Crofton City Council “violated the terms of the written contract and the Open Meetings Act.”
The lawsuit was filed by Christian Williams of the Domina Law Office of Omaha and seeks a jury trial.
In a response filed July 3 by the City of Crofton, nearly all of the allegations are disputed. The response was filed by Christopher M. Schmidt of the Baylor Evnen law firm of Lincoln. The city also seeks dismissal of the lawsuit at the Hendrixes’ cost.
About the only affirmative acknowledgment by the City of Crofton was that it, indeed, voted to terminate the Hendrixes’ contract in January.
District Court Judge Mark Johnson is presiding over the case, which has entered the discovery phase in which both sides are seeking to see what evidence may be admitted.
One of the issues where there is disagreement is over what actions could be taken by the Crofton City Council after a former council member was elected mayor and another one resigned last December. Those actions left the four-member council with only two members.
The Hendrixes told the Daily News last December that the council lacked a quorum to do city business until a special election could take place in March to elect two new council members.
At the December council meeting, council member Tom Allen resigned, so when newly elected Mayor Sharol Lawhead took over, it left the Crofton City Council with two members.
Lawhead previously served on the council and was elected mayor after former Mayor Wendell Strom, who had served 12 years, did not run again.
The other council members are Pam Berendsen and Larry Peitz, who were elected in November.
The remaining threesome researched state statutes and said they followed state statute 17-105, which stated two elected officials and a mayor constituted a quorum.
Then in January, the three voted to terminate the contract with Hendrix Law for attorney and city administrator services.
The Hendrixes have two legal opinions from the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office. The latest opinion, which is dated May 15, states in part that “we conclude that the presence of only two members of the Crofton City Council was insufficient to establish a quorum and, as a result, the members had no legal authority to transact business.”
The attorney general’s opinion, however, is nonbinding.