Judge: ‘City and EDGE acted in unison in denying public records’

A motion by plaintiff David Leon Frederick of Falls City to grant attorney’s fees and court costs in a suit against the City of Falls City and Falls City EDGE has been granted by District Court Judge Daniel Bryan.

“This court has reviewed the evidence submitted and finds that a reasonable attorney’s fee of $16,345 and litigation cost of $764.59 totaling $17,109.59, should be awarded” to Frederick, Judge Bryan wrote in a decision dated March 6.

While Judge Bryan issued a “Stay” of the order, he ordered the City and EDGE to place a “supercedes bond” of $10,000 cash with the Clerk of the District Court office, pending appeal.

Frederick filed suit in relation to the Consolidated Grain and Barge economic development project. Construction of the large grain-handling facility is well underway in south Falls City.

At issue in this suit are documents and whether Falls City Economic Development and Growth Enterprise, Inc., is a public or private entity.  Previously, the court found that EDGE is a non-profit corporation formed under Nebraska laws. Judge Bryan also found that EDGE is “a private entity,” but the equivalent of a “public agency for the purpose of disclosing records held by it as public records.” He wrote that “The structure of EDGE revealed that it walked like a public agency, talked like a public agency and for all purposes was a quasi public agency of the City of Falls City Nebraska.” As such, Judge Bryan in December ordered that EDGE provide documents deemed public to Frederick.  That decision is under appeal.
EDGE receives funding from the City, Richardson County and a number of local investors.

Judge Bryan has previously found that Frederick should pay costs associated with copying of the documents.  But a renewed request for those costs was denied at this time because, the Judge found, not all of the EDGE documents have been produced.

“Upon compliance with this court’s Write of Mandamus, EDGE may make application for actual costs incurred to this court,” Judge Bryan determined.

“This court’s findings . . . implicitly found that the City and EDGE acted in unison in denying public records” to Frederick, the judge ruled.

The case has created interest in economic development and civic entities across the state, especially with economic development arms that function with a blend of public and private funding.

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