There’s no question that in recent years the Town of Summerfield has spent a lot of money on legal fees related to lawsuits against the town as well as public records request disputes.
A legal action from former Town Councilmember Todd Rotruck kept the town in court for over two years, and, also in recent years, legal disputes over public records requests have cost the town a pretty penny in legal fees.
Summerfield resident and local newspaper publisher Don Wendelken took issue recently, however, when some Summerfield Town Council members complained at a meeting about “frivolous” lawsuits that have been costing the town money.
On Tuesday, June 21, Wendelken emailed Mayor Tim Sessoms questioning the use of the term “frivolous” when it came to lawsuits.
“At recent council meetings, when lawsuits and public records requests are mentioned, a few of you state that the budget is higher because of ‘frivolous’ lawsuits by named individuals,” Wendelken wrote. “Frivolous has a variety of meanings, and I would like to know what cases were frivolous based on the legal definition.”
Former Summerfield Mayor Gail Dunham, who made a large public records request of the town, was called out as one of the frivolous lawsuits – but earlier this year, she won her case and the judge required the town to pay her attorney fees.
Note: One of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definitions for “frivolous” is “having no sound basis (as in fact or law).”
Sessoms response stated that “the case with Gail was not that we did NOT want to produce docs, it was that she is frivolously submitting aimless public record request in search of something terrible someone is doing.”
Sessoms added that it’s certainly fine to suspect something is wrong with town government and make a request. However, he added, “when you continually [make requests] month after month and year after year to no avail and no wrong doing: that is frivolous.”
The current Summerfield mayor added, “Our staff and council work hard to keep Summerfield a small limited services government but [that] is increasingly difficult when constantly dealing with the magnitude of her request.”
Sessoms predecessor, former Summerfield Mayor BJ Barnes, also complained regularly about the burden placed on town staff by those unhappy citizens making large records requests.
Wendelken has also had many run-ins with the town over his own public records requests: In one instance, the town charged him hundreds of dollars for town staff time to meet his request.
Are you guys at the Rhino Times aware that this Wendelken joker is behind the Summerfield Scoop banner adds on your website? The clown is another democrat that couldn’t make it to Irving Park in town so moves out to Summerfield and infects this area. I’ve lived in this area since 1977 and have seen the decline in civility since the democrats started infesting this area. I’m curious to see how many of those people will be left out here once the fruits of their party’s economic policy idiocy come to bare. Financial leverage is powerful both ways.
Maybe if all public information was actually public then no lawsuits would be needed. But too many elected officials, lawyers,and career bureaucrats keep the public and press as uninformed as they possibly can. This protects incumbents, incompetents, and grifters. Why not just stop doing public business in private then PIRTs will become irrelevant.
Mayor Sessoms in my opinion is right and frivolous is the perfect word that describes the waste of money caused by Wendelken, Dunham and friends. Their actions have cost the town more than a few hundred thousand dollars in legal fees on cases that had no merit and they lost in court. The work that staff had to put in trying to keep up with and fulfill their request is not even part of that loss. We are talking hundreds of request. Wendelken, Dunham and a few misguided friends attempt to use the bullying tactic of intimidation by making numerous request, looking for anything they can blow up and pretend to be relevant in my opinion. I believe the others are just feckless pawns. Mayor Sessoms as I and others have been the brunt of their folly. Mayor Sessoms and I unlike the staff can speak out and have. The record speaks for itself, Judges and voters keep reminding them they are on the wrong track. The good people of Summerfield have seen thru their tactics. I wish they would try to be contributors in Summerfield and not detractors, but I’ve about given up on that happening.
Summerfield has a town charter that is no longer a guide for elected officials or the town manager. Instead, they quote we are a limited services town (when convenient) and will publicly attempt to humiliate anyone who disagrees with them or their policies. The problem? They see Greensboro as a model for changing the landscape in Summerfield. Sadly, they forgot why Summerfield wanted approval to become a town separate from Greensboro.