MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - The man tapped last year to be the next director of the Corn Palace has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and its mayor claiming he was forced to withdraw his name from the job.
The complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls alleges that Steven Koch was hired in October by Mayor Ken Tracy to lead the facility, but was fired on his first day on the job because of what the mayor described as “new developments.” Koch accuses the city and Tracy of violating his civil rights, breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit states Koch and Tracy met on Oct. 15 to talk about Koch’s hours, salary and benefits. Koch during the meeting indicated he would take the job and Tracy told him he would later be sworn in by city council “as a formality.”
The following day, a work email was set up for Koch and he also submitted requested background check information. He also received an email from the city congratulating him for the new job and confirmed his start date as Oct. 31.
Koch had a subsequent meeting with Tracy in which he discussed a conviction for a misdemeanor criminal charge in 2002 that showed up in his background check. According to the lawsuit, “Tracy represented to Koch that his criminal history was not relevant to Koch’s hiring.”
But during Koch’s first day at work, Koch was told he would need to withdraw his name from consideration because there had been “new developments.” The city and Tracy then issued a news release disclosing Koch’s criminal record and claiming that Koch had “‘changed his mind about taking the job’ and that Koch had offered ‘no particular explanation’ for ‘withdrawing’ his name from consideration” for the position.
Reports surfaced later that Koch had once been charged with three felony counts of misappropriation of funds by a contractor.
Tracy told The Daily Republic on Friday that he doesn’t feel that either the city or Tracy “did anything inappropriate regarding Mr. Koch’s actions.”
Koch’s attorneys declined to comment on the lawsuit and Mitchell’s city attorney Carl Koch could not be reached. No hearing has been scheduled on the case.
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