Hotel Letter Results in Defamation Lawsuit

A single-spaced, five-page letter that alleges the Pinkert Law Firm is representing both the City of Sturgeon Bay and Bob Papke, developer of the proposed Westside Redevelopment project hotel, resulted in a defamation lawsuit against the letter writer, Sturgeon Bay resident Carri Andersson.

The letter was sent on Jan. 22 to City Attorney Randall Nesbitt, various city officials and news media. The lawsuit was filed the next day, on Jan. 23, by Nesbitt, who is also a partner in Pinkert.

“This lawsuit has nothing to do with this hotel project,” Nesbitt said. “It has nothing to do with the city. It has nothing to do with any attempt or suggested attempt to shut people up or stand in the way of them having their voices heard. This is very plain and simple. This lady published false statements in an effort to try to defame myself and our law firm, and I wasn’t going to put up with it. There comes a point in life when you’re accountable with what you do. While this group seems to think they can say anything and do anything and attack anybody they want, the law looks at it otherwise, and she crossed the line.”

In her letter, Andersson alleged “multiple potential violations of the Open Meetings Law and possible conflicts of interest by members of The Waterfront Redevelopment Authority.”

“What turns this into a defamation lawsuit, there were specific allegations made, that Jim Smith [also a member of the law firm] filed the zoning application to the city on behalf of Bob Papke,” Nesbitt said. “She specifically alleges that. She also specifically alleges that Jim Smith sent a letter to the city on behalf of Bob Papke, both of which are absolutely false.

“This was sort of a classic hand-off situation,” Nesbitt continued, saying that Smith set up the limited liability company for Papke, but when he learned it was a city project, he told Papke that he would have to find another attorney.

“In 32 years of practicing, I’ve never had to do this,” Nesbitt said of the defamation lawsuit. “Never been publicly and directly attacked by somebody who has published false statements. And, quite honestly, never wanted to. If she had just written the letter to me, or to me and the city officials, I would have called her in and said, ‘Look, here are the real facts. You got this wrong.’ But she sent it to 29 people and media outlets. That’s a bell I can’t un-ring.”

Musician and Sturgeon Bay studio owner Hans Christian Reumschuessel is administering the Sturgeon Bay Legal Defense Fund to help Andersson deal with legal costs of the lawsuit,