- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The city of Beatrice and its mayor are asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit by a former mayoral candidate who says his property was condemned in retaliation because he criticized the mayor during campaigning.

Ronald Hasley filed the lawsuit in December 2013, a little more than three years after he lost the 2010 Beatrice mayoral election to current Mayor Dennis Schuster. Hasley’s suit said he was targeted by Schuster and city officials because a house he owns was condemned as uninhabitable within weeks of his failed bid.

“(T)he property should have not been condemned and was done so only at the direction of the defendant, and at all times relevant, the city of Beatrice … knew or should have known that the purported inspection was a sham and was conducted only for the purpose of creating a pretext for the aforementioned condemnation,” Hasley’s lawsuit said.

Attorney Thomas Culhane, who represents the city and mayor, filed a motion Wednesday seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed. He said Schuster has qualified immunity, which protects government officials from liability for civil damages as long as their conduct does not violate clearly established laws or constitutional rights.

Culhane said Hasley has no evidence to prove that Schuster was involved in the inspection and condemnation of Hasley’s property. Even if he had, “there is no conceivable basis upon which … Schuster could be deemed to have been obviously wrong or incompetent in issuing such a supposed instruction; no reasonable officer could have considered it objectively unlawful to inspect the property given its condition at the time,” Culhane wrote in the motion.

The city is not liable because there was probable cause for city officials to condemn the property, Culhane said, pointing to the fact that a judge signed a warrant to allow officials to inspect the property, which they determined was uninhabitable because of a hole in its roof.

Hasley’s attorney, Vince Powers of Lincoln, declined to comment Thursday. Culhane did not return email and phone messages seeking comment.

The trial is scheduled for Dec. 7 before U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf in Omaha.

Hasley is seeking an unspecified amount in damages, as well as legal costs. He is also seeking a declaration that his rights were violated and an injunction ordering the defendants not to further retaliate against him.

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