City officials say lawsuit was intended to embarrass them
Officials named individually in a contractor's lawsuit against Connellsville say the move was intended to "embarrass, harass, humiliate and demean" them.
In a suit filed May 12, Ritenour & Sons Construction Co. accuses Mayor Judy Reed and Councilmen David McIntire and Terry Bodes of breaching an agreement between the firm and the city.
They were sued in their capacity as city officials and individually. Ritenour & Sons is seeking $21,666 plus attorney fees and court costs.
Separate responses filed Friday by Reed, McIntire and Bodes with the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas say the lawsuit is "frivolous and vexatious in nature."
Although the responses were filed separately, they are identical in content.
The responses further allege that Ritenour & Sons failed to set forth evidence that Reed, McIntire or Bodes "acted in an individual capacity with regard to any matters" in the complaint.
And because of the lawsuit, all three have suffered "emotional distress and mental anguish, embarrassment, harassment and humiliation," the response alleges.
They also claim to have "suffered such mental and emotional distress that (their) ability to concentrate and work has been diminished and (their) enjoyment of life compromised."
Ritenour & Sons' primary claim is the city, along with Reed, McIntire and Bodes, failed to honor a "contract" council approved last year for the company to demolish a vacant downtown building.
The building, which housed the former Comfort Corner Shoe Store and several apartments, was heavily damaged by fire in February 2005.
The lawsuit says after Ritenour submitted a bid of $38,000 for the job, the city adopted a resolution Oct. 15, 2005, to accept the proposal.
But the city denies the claim, countering that acceptance of the bid was contingent upon review by then-solicitor Joseph Ferens, who never approved the bid and subsequently was replaced. The caveat was to settle how the project would be funded.
So, according to the city's response, a contract never existed.
The building's owner, Illinois-based mortgage company HSBC of North America, donated $30,000 to the city for the demolition, as well as the property, after the city accepted Ritenour & Sons' bid.
The city then hired another contractor, Rod Allen Demolition, and the work was completed in April 2006 for $26,000.
Bodes and McIntire were not on council when Ritenour's bid was accepted in October 2005. They were named in the lawsuit for voting at an April 2006 meeting along with Reed to perform an emergency demolition. Reed then hired Rod Allen.
The city's response was filed June 1. No counsel of record was recorded on the document, and counsel was not named on the Reed, McIntire or Bodes individual filings.
Gretchen Mundorff, a Connellsville attorney, is the city's solicitor. The city is seeking damages in the form of unspecified attorney's fees and costs.
Ritenour & Sons has 20 days from July 14 to file a response. A court date has not been set.