A Dresser man has filed suit in Polk County Circuit Court against the Town of Osceola government, alleging the government caused him harm.
Tom Magnafici, 744 200th Street, Dresser, filed the suit earlier this month under the intentional tort shield, which means Magnafici must show the Town of Osceola acted with intent to cause harm or the Town’s actions were so reckless and dangerous they would have known harm would result.
Magnafici and attorney Gregory Miller outlined their case in a 12-page complaint.
Their first count was the Town failed to preserve public records and failure to respond to open records request.
In March 2020, Magnafici submitted an open records request to the Town because he had “various concerns to the management and operations” of the Township, including then-Clerk Lorraine Rugroden’s salary because he felt it was unreasonably high compared to other Clerks. Magnafici opined it was due to her close personal relationship with Town Chairman Doug Schmidt.
Further clarification between Magnafici and Town Attorney Catherine R. Munkittrick showed Magnafici wanted all e-mails between the clerk, chairman and planning commission members for the town of Osceola in 2019. The town responded by requiring payment of $612.07.
In April, Easy I.T. Guys, were contracted for assistance in fulfillment of the request. They discovered many of the e-mails in question had been recently deleted by Schmidt and fellow board member Brandon Whitaker.
Magnafici alleged two members of the planning commission, Bob Wright and Amy Middleton, stated he could sue for access to the e-mails.
“Defendant has made no other attempt to comply with the request except the partial production, and/or provide e-mails that were sent or received by planning and/or zoning employees,” the complaint states.
His second count was the violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Magnafici, who is hearing impaired, attends the monthly Board meetings. Therefore, the Town contracted with a company called Bitworks in Taylors Falls, Wisconsin to supply headphones for Magnafici.
The headphones didn’t significantly aid Magnafici’s hearing. Bitworks informed the Town the headphones wouldn’t function to meet the Town’s desires. Schmidt refused payment to Bitworks saying, “they hadn’t done anything”. The headphones still do not work and Magnafici is claiming failure to provide a set of headphones severely limit his ability to attend public meetings.
The third count is intentional infliction of emotional distress.
On May 19, 2020, during the town’s annual meeting, Magnafici made a motion for the abolishment of the town’s Planning Commission, which after lengthy discussion, was approved by those in attendance.
Schmidt was in advisement with the Wisconsin Township Association’s various attorneys, who informed him any action taken regarding the Planning Commission was “entirely advisory” and without binding effect on the Osceola Town Board. Magnafici is claiming this was news to him and anyone else who was at the annual meeting. Magnafici is further claiming Schmidt and further members avoid speaking directly into the microphone placed in front of the board’s large table during meetings to prevent him from participating.
He is also claiming the Town is refusing to install additional microphones or speakers. He further added when asked about his hearing, Schmidt told him to “try harder to hear better”.
“Plaintiff has suffered ridicule, embarrassment, and great frustration as a result of defendant’s conduct,” the complaint states. “…Without an aid, Plaintiff cannot and will not be able to participate in local governmental affairs, as is his right under the color of law.”
The final count was civil conspiracy.
“The acts of Defendants’ officers and agents were in furtherance of a conspiracy to violate a legal duty owned to Plaintiff and all others similarly situated,” the complaint concluded.
As for punitive damages, Magnafici is asking for at least $50,000.
Munkittrick declined comment when reached by the Sun Dec. 28.