A lawsuit filed by Tom Magnafici against the Town of Osceola has been settled.
The lawsuit was filed in December of 2020. The suit had four counts: failure to preserve public records and failure to respond to open records requests; violating the Americans With Disabilities Act; intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.
A settlement was reached and the lawsuit dismissed July 9.
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 suggested it was due to her close personal relationship with Town Chairman Doug Schmidt.
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, who is hearing impaired, attends the monthly Board meetings. The Town contracted with a company called Bitworks in Taylors Falls 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 claimed failure to provide a set of headphones severely limited his ability to attend public meetings.
Magnafici claimed Schmidt and other members avoid speaking directly into the microphone placed in front of the board’s large table during meetings to prevent him from participating. He also claimed 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.”
According to court documents, count three of the suit: intentional infliction of emotional distress; and count four: civil conspiracy were dismissed with prejudice March 26.
Dismissal with prejudice means the subject cannot be raised again.
Terms of the settlement were not released.
Since the lawsuit was filed, the Town has purchased microphones for all board members. Schmidt has resigned from the board and Rugroden has resigned as clerk.
When asked for comment, Magnafici said “Tom is ecstatic that he can hear the meetings now.”