A Minneapolis couple’s defamation lawsuit against one current and one former Hennepin County commissioner was dismissed Thursday by a Hennepin County judge.
Kevin and Valerie Holler had argued that they were defamed by comments made by Commissioner Mike Opat and former Commissioner Mark Stenglein about their unwillingness to sell their home on north Minneapolis property sought for construction of a new library.
Judge John McShane’s action was the second time a Hennepin County judge has dismissed the Hollers’ lawsuit. The first time, the state Court of Appeals ruled that Hennepin County Judge Denise Reilly had inappropriately granted a motion to dismiss.
In early 2007, the Hollers hung a for-sale sign on their property, but took it down that July. In April 2008, the county voted to replace the Webber Park Library at 4310 Webber Pkwy. The county first worked on negotiating the purchase of the largest property needed and by May 2008 sent letters to other property owners, including the Hollers, informing them it wanted to buy their land.
The court’s decision says conversations between the Hollers and the county went well into 2009, with the Hollers asking $1.2 million for the property. The statements that were the subject of the lawsuit were made by Opat and Stenglein in 2010 and 2012 in media reports about the difficulty they were having in acquiring the Hollers’ land.
In his ruling, McShane said the statements by the commissioners were either factual, hyperbole or reasonable opinion.