AUSTIN EDITION Firm sues Rochester school district
By Joshua Lynsen
The architectural firm that designed Century High School has sued the Rochester school district and two district officials for defamation and slander.
Attorneys for Hammel, Green and Abrahamson Inc., a Twin-Cities based firm with an office in Rochester, filed the civil lawsuit in Hennepin County. The suit seeks more than $50,000 in damages from Rochester Public Schools, Superintendent Jerry Williams and Chief Financial Officer Paul Bourgeois.
The lawsuit alleges Bourgeois made "false and defamatory statements" concerning the quality of HGA's work on Century, which opened in 1997.
Bourgeois' statements were published in the Post-Bulletin on Feb. 8. At that time, he was critical of Century's architectural design and said there were problems concerning the school's total square footage, cafeteria, floor coverings and football field.
Rochester Public Schools responded to the lawsuit with a statement Monday from school board chairwoman Cris Fischer. "We have been put in the position of having to defend ourselves, and it will be at a cost to the district no matter what the outcome," Fischer said. "We will move forward as is necessary and try to minimize the expense to the district."
According to the lawsuit, an HGA representative contacted Williams regarding Bourgeois' statements. Williams, HGA alleges, told the firm's representative that Bourgeois' statements were wrong and asked how to remedy the situation. But the lawsuit says Williams never took action to disavow or correct Bourgeois' statements.
The suit alleges three counts of wrongdoing that have "directly defamed and slandered" HGA's professional reputation. For each count, the firm is seeking more than $50,000 in damages from each defendant.
The first count, defamation and slander, alleges Bourgeois, Williams and Rochester Public Schools defamed HGA by making false and defamatory statements.
The second count, negligence, alleges Bourgeois intentionally made defamatory statements about HGA's work on Century. The count also alleges Williams negligently failed to correct Bourgeois' statements.
A final count alleges Bourgeois, Williams and Rochester Public Schools violated the Minnesota Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act by allowing "false and misleading information" to be published concerning HGA's professional services.