Court: State Office Project Foe Must Cover Losses
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Court of Appeals judges ruled Tuesday that a former lawmaker suing to stop a new Senate office building must come up with an $11 million bond if he wants to press his case forward.
A three-judge panel ruled that the surety bond is appropriate to protect the state from losses resulting from potential delays due to the litigation by former Republican Rep. Jim Knoblach of St. Cloud. The state had asked for a higher bond, while Knoblach’s attorney has said any guarantee could deter him from continuing the case.
The bond must be posted by next Tuesday. If it is, arguments in the case would be held June 10.
Knoblach said he plans to appeal the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
“I am not a member of the so-called 1 percent, and I don’t have $11 million to post as bond,” Knoblach said in a statement.
While the appeals court did allow for the expedited hearing next month, Knoblach said it makes no sense to require him to post an $11 million bond by May 27 to have the hearing “since I can’t post such a bond.”
The building to be erected across from the Capitol is projected to cost $90 million. Taxpayers would cover all but $13 million. The lawsuit is the last barrier to construction.
In the lawsuit, Knoblach has contended that the way the project was authorized was illegal because it was included in the 2013 tax bill rather than the typical public works package that requires a higher vote threshold to pass. A lower court ruled against him.
The state expects to break ground on the building in July. Even a small delay could be costly, state officials have said, because they would be required to find and outfit temporary space for lawmakers displaced by an ongoing Capitol renovation.
Chief Judge Edward Cleary wrote in the order that the state could push for even more if costs escalate.
“If respondents assert that this is amount is inadequate to fully protect the taxpayers from loss or damage attributable to delay caused by the pendency of this appeal, they may move for an increase in the bond, with appropriate supporting documentation,” he wrote.
The planned office building is intertwined with the state Capitol renovation. Senators with Capitol offices are being displaced and the Senate plans to use space in its new building as a temporary chamber for the 2016 session. The timeline is tight and Department of Administration officials say they may need to make alternate plans if the project stalls.
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