City answers Calumet complaint

The city of Pipestone and former Pipestone Building and Zoning Official Doug Fortune filed an answer earlier this month to the complaint filed in November by reVamped LLC, Heliocentrix LLC, Tammy Grubbs and Vanda Smrkovski in November regarding the condemnation of the Calumet Inn in 2020.

Grubbs and Smrkovski alleged that the city and Fortune violated their due process rights under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and violated their 5th Amendment rights by preventing them from using or occupying the Calumet Inn. They are seeking damages in excess of $75,000 plus legal costs and any other relief the court may deem just.

According to the answer filed Dec. 8, the city and Fortune contend that the incident does not rise to the level of constitutional deprivation and therefore deny the jurisdiction of the federal court.

In general, the city and Fortune contend that they “acted lawfully and properly in all respects” regarding the condemnation of the Calumet Inn. They contend that they were “acting in the best interest of the public health, safety, and welfare” and acting within their “police power, or with authority delegated to them in their official capacity, with a good faith belief their conduct was lawful, constitutional, and pursuant to probable cause.”

They deny that the city and Fortune had a policy of failing to provide proper notice when condemning properties, or a custom, policy or practice that would violate an individual’s constitutional rights.

The city and Fortune contend that the Calumet Inn had “become notable for its dilapidation, decay, and decrepitude.” They allege that Grubbs and Smrkovski had knowledge of “various building, fire, health, and life safety code violations,” had an opportunity to correct them, “chose not to do so” and exhibited a pattern and practice of “neglect, delay, and dereliction.”

The city and Fortune contend that Grubbs and Smrkovski had an opportunity to dispute the code violations and failed to exhaust their available administrative and state law remedies. They argue that requiring Grubbs and Smrkovski to comply with the law pertaining to the alleged code violations was not “tantamount to direct appropriation or ouster” and that they did not deprive them of all reasonable use of the property. They contend that the injuries and damages in the complaint filed by Grubbs and Smrkovski were not caused by the city or Fortune.

Regarding those damages, the city and Fortune indicate that they do not have sufficient knowledge to form a belief as to their validity and therefore deny them and demand proof of them. They also allege that Grubbs and Smrkovski failed to mitigate the purported damages and allege that the pandemic played a substantial role in the purported damages. Based on their assertions, the city and Fortune contend that Grubbs and Smrkovski are not entitled to any relief.

A pretrial conference between the attorneys representing the involved parties is scheduled for Feb. 2 at 11 a.m. before United States Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung.