A settlement has been reached between Huber Heights and an economic developer the city filed a lawsuit against in April 2012.
Huber Heights and Don Holbrook — a Dayton native who’s based in Las Vegas — recently finalized a settlement agreement and mutual release of all claims after the city spent almost a year trying to recover more than $50,000. City Council unanimously approved the resolution at its March 25 meeting.
Huber Heights filed a lawsuit against Don Allen Holbrook, LLC in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court on April 24, 2012, claiming Holbrook did not fulfill terms of a $66,000 contract signed in December 2011.
The contract called for Holbrook, a 1979 Vandalia-Butler graduate, to create an economic development business case for the city, looking at the potential of expanding The Heights project — the mixed-use development near the Ohio 201 and Interstate 70 interchange.
The city paid Holbrook in two installments — $23,300 on Dec. 14, 2011, and $30,500 on Feb. 12 of last year, according to invoices. Holbrook turned in his final product March 13, 2012, before the city made the final payment of $12,200.
The city withheld that payment because, according to the lawsuit, the product “wholly failed to conform to the terms (of the contract) and wholly failed to conform to industry standards.”
The city accused Holbrook of breach of contract, conversion, unjust enrichment, fraudulent inducement and negligent misrepresentation. Huber Heights demanded its $53,800 back, as well as punitive damages and attorney fees.
Holbrook responded by filing a counterclaim, a motion to dismiss four of the five claims, and a third-party complaint against newspaper reporters and bloggers around the country. The third-party complaint was dismissed by the courts Oct. 19.
Holbrook alleged the city owed him the remaining $12,200 of the contract, and accused it of trade secrets and withholding public documents, notably “defamatory and derogatory material” circulated amongst city staff on or before March 14, 2012.
In the settlement approved by council this week, no money was exchanged, but each party has to pay its own attorney fees. The city will pay for all court costs.
Total estimated cost to the city was $12,750, according to city attorney Alan Schaeffer. He said if the case continued, it would have cost the city at least $35,000 to $40,000.
“It reached a point for both of us where we were both going to have to spend a substantial amount of money to move forward,” Schaeffer said. “The parties got together and asked, ‘What do we want to do here?’ A settlement was considered as an option. This was a good result for the city.”
The terms of the agreement also included: the city dismissing claims against Holbrook; Holbrook dismissing his counterclaims against the city; and the city not permitting any third parties to use Holbrook’s work product. Nothing in the agreement constitutes an admission of fault or liability by either party, it said.
“We ended the lawsuit for the same reasons we filed the lawsuit, which were to seek redress and make a point,” Schaeffer said. “We terminated the lawsuit through a settlement agreement having accomplished substantially what we wanted to.”
Holbrook said he spent approximately $20,000 in legal fees, and it would have cost another $20,000 to proceed.
“I’m not going to chase something that has no ability to have a positive return on it,” he said. “I wouldn’t recover enough money to pay attorney fees, so this made financial sense. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth because it is my hometown. I have no ill will towards Huber Heights. I’m glad it’s over.”
Huber Heights Vice Mayor Mark Campbell also said he is glad to be moving past the lawsuit. In recent months, the city has been focused on developing an $18 million music center and $22 million fieldhouse, which are scheduled to be completed by next summer.
“Things like this, as they linger, continue to distract,” Campbell said. “The future that this city has in front of it is such that we need to take advantage of opportunities, not continue in the past.”