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Don’t expect a quick result: GMR lawsuit decision could come as late as October 2020

Greenbush School site

Expecting a decision soon on the lawsuit being brought against the Greenbush-Middle River School by the Middle River Annexation Property Owners Group? GMR Superintendent Larry Guggisberg delivered an update and a message to the GMR School Board at its September 16 meeting regarding this lawsuit.

“Any possibility of this being done quick and being finished in a short period of time is not going to happen,” Guggisberg said. “You may not find out a verdict on this until next year.”

Roseau County Judge Donna Dixon is presiding over the case and will make this final decision.

So how has this lawsuit progressed since the Middle River Group served the GMR Board in mid-May 2019?

In Roseau County Court, the GMR School District filed a motion to dismiss this lawsuit based on existing Minnesota law on or about July 26. The Middle River group submitted a brief opposing this dismissal on August 12.

An August 27 morning hearing then took place in Roseau County Court. Three GMR board members, including Shane Kilen, Carrie Jo Howard, and Laurie Stromsodt, former GMR Superintendent Tom Jerome, and GMR Superintendent Guggisberg attended this hearing.

According to Guggisberg, attorneys on both sides submitted briefs to the court in advance of this hearing and Judge Dixon confirmed that she received and had read these briefs. She then asked that both sides’ attorneys summarize their case, at which time they did. Both sides responded to one another.

Three days later, Judge Dixon declined to dismiss the case at this time, requiring more information before making a decision on the case. She is allowing for some limited discovery or gathering of information, according to the September 16 GMR Board Agenda.

She then held a conference call with the Middle River group and GMR attorneys, laying out discovery deadlines and the info she is seeking. At the September 16 board meeting, Guggisberg laid out the upcoming timeline. In February or early March 2019, more information will have to be provided to the court. A meeting to schedule future actions will take place in April 2019, and by May 1, 2019, all information (discovery) has to be submitted.

“Then after that, it’s very likely that the school district’s attorney will file a motion to dismiss and then it’s very likely that the Middle River group will file a motion not to dismiss,” Guggisberg said. “And so, it’s likely that you’re not going to have anything happen moving forward (on) this in court anyway until October next year, not this year.”

As review, the “Middle River Annexation Property Owners Group” includes approximately 403 Marshall County landowners and petitioners looking to detach their land out of the Greenbush-Middle River School District and annex into the Marshall County Central School District.

At an April 15, 2019 meeting, the school board denied passing a motion to allow for this group’s annexation request by a 5-2 vote. The two board members who voted to approve this motion, Joe Melby and Laurie Stromsodt, are on this petition list.

The Middle River group is looking for the Roseau County Court to direct the GMR District to allow these petitioners to detach from the district. The group explained why, citing how the district’s decision to not give this group consent to detach and annex was “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable, and violated Petitioners’ Due Process rights,” according to the lawsuit. Read the June 5, 2019 issue of The Tribune to see the Middle River group’s complete argument.

To see the complete GMR Board story, read the September 25 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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