- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - The city of Mitchell and its mayor say there is no basis for a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by a man who was in line last fall to be the next director of the city’s Corn Palace tourist attraction.

Steve Koch alleges he was forced out shortly after accepting the position. He sued last month in U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls, accusing the city and Mayor Ken Tracy of violating his civil rights, breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In its response, the city acknowledged that its human resources department sent Koch a congratulatory email, but noted that his 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, The Daily Republic newspaper reported (https://bit.ly/1LiJbbW ).

The two sides are to meet by July 22, and could discuss a possible out-of-court settlement.

In December, Tracy chose local golf course manager Dan Sabers to be the next director of the Corn Palace, which is billed as the world’s only palace dedicated to the grain and attracts about 200,000 tourists each year. The building is decorated inside and outside with murals made from about 275,000 ears of corn of various sizes and colors. It’s in the midst of a $7.2 million renovation.

The attraction had been without a director since March 2014, when Mark Schilling resigned at Tracy’s request following a state audit that concluded Schilling mishandled money. A grand jury this past March indicted him on a misdemeanor petty theft charge.

Schilling earlier told The Associated Press that he didn’t think he did anything wrong.

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

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