CROFTON, Neb. — A Crofton law firm has filed a civil suit against the City of Crofton for $96,000 and any other costs, alleging the city wrongfully terminated the firm’s contract for providing services to the city.
Daniel Hendrix and Charlie Gail Hendrix, a husband and wife doing business as Hendrix Law, have filed suit in Knox County District Court. They are seeking compensation for what was owed under the contract terms, according to court records.
The couple, as plaintiffs, demand a trial by jury on all issues so triable.
In their suit, the Hendrixes claim breach of contract. They are seeking the remaining sums of money due and owing under the terms of the contract from Jan. 14, 2019, through October 2020. The total amount due and owing for this time period is $96,010.84.
In addition, the Hendrixes have filed a second claim that the city violated the open meetings act when it discussed the termination of Hendrix Law "and did so in secret."
The Hendrixes are seeing the payment of attorney fees under this claim.
In their suit, judgment is requested for this amount plus any costs, fees, pre- and post-judgment interest the court determines to be equitable.
The Hendrixes are represented in the suit by Domina Law Group of Omaha.
The City of Crofton, represented by City Attorney James McNally of Neligh, Nebraska, has filed a response disputing portions of the Hendrixes’ claims.
Those areas of dispute include Mayor Sharol Lawhead’s ability to vote on the contract, whether a quorum was achieved and the accuracy of the Hendrixes’ description of certain events.
The city also contends that no response is required for certain legal conclusions by the Hendrixes.
In addition, the city has filed affirmative defenses in its response to the lawsuit.
In their suit, the Hendrixes say they entered into a written contract with the City of Crofton to provide administrative and legal services. They say that, on Jan. 14, 2019, despite lacking a quorum, the city terminated the contract after discussing the move in a closed session.
The Hendrixes say the steps violated the terms of the written contract and the Open Meetings act.
In their suit, the Hendrixes say the City of Crofton and their law firm executed a written contract where the firm would provide city attorney and city administrative services. The contract had an automatic renewal provision after the first year, for a period of three years.
This three-year period was in effect when, on Jan. 14, 2019, the City of Crofton voted to terminate the contract. Lawhead and council members Larry Peitz and Pam Berendsen voted in favor, with the other two council members not present.
The vote occurred after Lawhead, Peitz and Berendsen entered into executive session to discuss the contract. Those actions are contained in the city’s meeting minutes.
The Hendrixes say the city’s representatives that participated in the vote to terminate the contract did not constitute a sufficient quorum to vote on such matters.
"The mayor’s presence and participating in voting on January 14, 2019, did not provide the necessary majority to constitute a quorum as required by law," the suit says.
"The contract language stated that the contract was terminable only if written notice was given 90 days prior to the start of the renewal period, or the parties mutually agreed to end the contract. Neither provision was activated through conduct of any party."
In addition to its responses to the Hendrixes’ claims, the city has put forth affirmative defenses.
• Defendant (the city) denies each and every allegation contained in the plaintiffs’ (Hendrixes) complaint, except those allegations specifically admitted or those that constitute admissions against the plaintiffs’ interest;
• Defendant alleges the plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted;
• Defendant alleges plaintiffs have failed to mitigate their damages, if any, and therefore the plaintiffs’ claim for damages is barred in whole or in part;
• Defendant alleges the contract is void due to coercion and/or duress;
• Defendant alleges the contract is void for illegality of purpose;
• Defendant alleges the contract is void for fraudulent, negligent and/or material misrepresentation;
• Defendant alleges the contract is void due to public policy;
• Defendant alleges anticipatory repudiation, breach and/or abandonment of contract;
• Defendant alleges the contract is void due to lack of authority;
• Defendant alleges plaintiffs’ claim is moot.
Therefore, the defendant asks that the plaintiffs’ complaint be dismissed at the plaintiffs’ costs.
A pre-trial conference has been set for Nov. 26 at 11 a.m. in the district courtroom at the Knox County Courthouse in Center, Nebraska.
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