WAUSAU - Former Washington County Commissioner Lynn Gothard has officially made good on her November 2016 promise to sue the Town of Wausau and Wausau Fire Chief Sam Rudd.
Filed Dec. 12, 2017 with the US District Court and served to Wausau town officials Jan. 18, the suit echoes Gothard's previous filings stating the Town violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
Gothard could not comment on the pending litigation but did say the Town had warning.
In November 2016, Gothard told the Town Council - which, at that time, included her father, then-Mayor B.J. Phillips - that she intended to file a lawsuit based on Wausau Fire Department’s refusal to sell her a political ad in the department’s annual Possum Day event program. Gothard asserts she was denied her right to equal time and faced retaliation from Fire Chief Sam Rudd, whom she says holds a personal grudge against her.
In September 2017, the Town received a letter from Gothard’s attorney, Tiffany R. Cruz of firm Friedman & Abrahamsen, advising if the Town did not respond, the firm would move forward with Gothard’s claims.
″...It appears [Gothard’s] advertisement request was the only one rejected, period,” wrote Cruz. “Certainly, Ms. Gothard’s election may have been prejudiced by this action, as the annual Possum Festival is widely attended, and Ms. Gothard lost valuable exposure due to these actions. Additionally, this is a violation of her First Amendment right to exercise speech in a forum that was open to the public and other candidates.”
The Town of Wausau also could not comment on pending litigation.
Previous complaints filed by Gothard with the state Commission on Ethics and the Florida Elections Commission regarding the issue were ruled unfounded.
Violations listed in the complaint alleged that Rudd had used his official authority or influence as a municipal officer for the purpose of affecting the results of the August 30, 2016 Republican Primary, in which then-incumbent Gothard was defeated.
While the court records do not specify a monetary amount sought by Gothard, they do state she is seeking the payment of attorney fees, judgment against the defendants, and punitive damages assessed against Chief Rudd.
Wausau Town Council addressed the meeting when the board met in regular session Feb. 8 and is expected to turn the case over the attorneys with the Florida League of Cities.
Court records state the Town has 21 days from service to file and answer with the court. That deadline will expire next week.