- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 7, 2015

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - A legal dispute between Mitchell and a man who was in line last year to be the next director of the city’s Corn Palace tourist attraction appears headed for trial.

The city has no plans to settle with Steve Koch out of court, former Mayor Ken Tracy told The Daily Republic newspaper (https://bit.ly/1JLCeAT ).

Koch in May filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and Tracy, maintaining he was forced out as Corn Palace director after being offered the position and accepting it. The complaint in U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls claims a violation of his civil rights, breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He’s seeking unspecified money damages.

The city defends its actions, saying Koch’s hiring was subject to a background check. Koch pleaded guilty to misdemeanor petty theft in a 2002 case involving misused money from a family business.

Attorneys for both sides talked on July 2, but only about a trial and not a settlement, according to court documents. A jury trial was not immediately scheduled. It’s expected to last about four days.

Koch last October was to replace Mark Schilling, who had resigned as Corn Palace director in March 2014 at Tracy’s request due to alleged mishandling of money. Schilling told The Associated Press that he didn’t think he did anything wrong, but he’s facing a misdemeanor petty theft charge.

In December, Tracy chose local golf course manager Dan Sabers to be the next director of the Corn Palace, which is decorated with murals made from ears of corn and attracts about 200,000 tourists each year.

Tracy in June lost his bid for re-election. New Mayor Jerry Toomey was sworn in on Monday night.

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Information from: The Daily Republic, https://www.mitchellrepublic.com


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