In an effort to expedite a settlement with the peace group that was barred from marching in the Fourth of July parade the city of Brainerd has agreed to enter into mediation.
At the suggestion of City Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick, the city council Monday approved scheduling a mediation date with the Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace. The council designated council members Mary Koep, Kelly Bevans and Anne Nelson Fisher to represent the city in a closed mediation session.
Fitzpatrick said the city's attorney, Clifford Greene, and the peace group's attorney, Tim Branson, have agreed to resolve the issue through mediation.
"Both attorneys have expressed interest in coming to a prompt resolution," said Fitzpatrick.
Brainerd Community Action barred the peace group from marching in the July Fourth parade because of what it called safety concerns. BACP claimed Brainerd Community Action's decision violated the group's First Amendment rights.
BACP rejected a Jan. 8 proposal from the city, and the city rejected a Feb. 9 counterproposal from BACP. One portion of the proposed settlement both parties agreed on was a symposium addressing First Amendment topics.
In February, BACP informed the city council that the essential elements of a settlement must be complete and ratified by the council by March 15 or the peace group would file a lawsuit. Council member Bob Olson asked Fitzpatrick if mediation would go past that date.
"I'd hate to see this thing go into a lawsuit," said Olson.
Fitzpatrick said there's been no indication from Branson that the deadline would be suspended if the parties go to mediation.
Bevans asked Fitzpatrick if his participation in the mediation would in any way open himself to be included in a lawsuit filed by The Dispatch against the city of Brainerd and five other council members for a closed meeting held in July to discuss BACP's exclusion from the Fourth of July parade. Fitzpatrick said it was unlikely Bevans would be named because of how far The Dispatch's lawsuit has advanced in court.
Because BACP has threatened a lawsuit, Fitzpatrick said council members wishing to make comments about the issue should direct them to Green, who in turn could comment on behalf of the city council.
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