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Hearing delayed in vegetable grower's case against the city of Watson

MONTEVIDEO -- Attorney John Mack began his argument to the court Tuesday by stating the matter was "very clear," but unfortunately for the New London counselor, his cell phone connection was not.

An obviously irked District Judge David Mennis terminated the civil lawsuit hearing only a few minutes into it when he learned that Mack was using a cell phone instead of a land line to participate.

The hearing had been scheduled Tuesday afternoon in District Court in Montevideo.

It left Mack's client Aziz Ansari in the courtroom feeling both disappointed and frustrated.

Tuesday's hearing was being held on a civil action by Ansari against the city of Watson. Ansari and the city of Watson had reached a mediated settlement in April to end their dispute over Ansari's hoop-covered structures for growing vegetables.

The city of Watson agreed to provide Ansari $50,000, issue him permits for the structures, and drop legal action accusing him of not complying with city building codes.

In turn, Ansari agreed to drop his discrimination lawsuit against the city and others, make changes to his property and obtain appropriate permits for a nursery or greenhouse.

Ansari charges that the city has not paid the funds or issued permits for the existing structures as he -- and his attorney -- claim is clearly stated in the agreement.

The city counters he must apply for the permits first.

Judge Mennis told Mack he agreed to hold a hearing by conference call only after hosting a "dry run" on Monday that assured a clear connection among the three attorneys involved in the case.

The judge told Mack that he could only hear about two-thirds of his opening argument due to the faulty connection.

All three attorneys were at remote locations and connected via conference call. The city of Watson was represented by attorney Robert Alsop and the League of Minnesota Cities -- through which the city of Watson has insurance -- was represented by attorney Paul Reuvers.

Judge Mennis said he would reschedule the hearing, and threatened that he may require that the attorneys appear in person.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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