- Associated Press - Thursday, July 14, 2016

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - A federal judge has cleared the city of Mitchell and former mayor Ken Tracy of any illegal activity in a lawsuit filed by a man once pegged as the next director of the city’s Corn Palace tourist attraction.

Steve Koch filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and Tracy last year. He said he was forced out as Corn Palace director after being offered the position and accepting it when his criminal record for petty theft came to light. He sought unspecified money damages.

U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier ruled in favor of Mitchell and Tracy on Tuesday, The Daily Republic newspaper reported (https://bit.ly/29Lob1H ). Schreier rejected Koch’s claims of breach of contract, violation of due process rights and defamation.

One Koch’s attorneys, Kelsea Sutton, told The Associated Press on Thursday that Koch has not decided whether or not to appeal the ruling. Sutton had no further comment.

The Corn Palace bills itself as the world’s only palace dedicated to the commodity. It draws about 200,000 tourists each year.

The city’s effort to secure a long-term director for the facility began in March 2014, when then-director Mark Schilling resigned at Tracy’s request following a state audit that concluded Schilling mishandled money - an allegation he denied. In October of that year, Tracy offered the job to Koch.

Koch ended up not filling the role, and the city gave the job to another man last year who resigned after only about eight months for undisclosed reasons.

Earlier this year, the city hired Florida National University athletic director and men’s basketball coach Scott Schmidt to be the Corn Palace director. Schmidt played high school and college basketball in Mitchell.

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

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