Mayor sues SIST, representative over pamphlet, web site: Lawsuit seeks $100,000 in damages

Shawano Leader/February 25, 2007
By Leader Staff Writer

Mayor Lorna Marquardt and her husband have filed a personal libel and defamation suit against a representative of the R.C. Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology (SIST), Inc.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in Shawano County Circuit Court names as defendants Kalmar G. Gronvall, listed as a member of SIST's Board of Directors, as well as SIST itself, and two subsidiaries owned by the corporation.

The suit centers on pamphlets and a web site allegedly put together by Gronvall that referred to Marquardt as a racist and included derogatory, doctored photos. One of those portrayed Marquardt as an orangutan.

"This has gone on far too long and it needs to stop," Marquardt said. "I believe taking this through the legal system is the right thing to do, the only thing left to do."

Among the statements in the pamphlet quoted in the lawsuit is that Marquardt is a "clone from pre-Civil War plantation days in the 1850s, when a mad scientist was experimenting by trying to combine the DNA cells from an exhumed southern belle and an orangutan."

The pamphlet, a copy of which is attached as an exhibit to the lawsuit, claims that Marquardt was racially motivated against Samanta Roy, who is of East Indian descent.

"I have not done the things I'm accused of doing, and I'm ready to speak up and fight the good fight," Marquardt said. "I have never met Samanta Roy, who I'm accused of hating, but I'm sure we will meet during court proceedings."

Naomi Isaacson, an agent for SIST and its two subsidiaries, said they have no connection to the pamphlet or the web site.

"What Kal is doing, SIST has nothing to do with," Isaacson said. She said she could not comment further because she has not yet seen the lawsuit.

Gronvall was faxed a copy of the suit Friday but did not respond by deadline.

The pamphlet accused Marquardt, among other things, of singling out USA International Raceway—part of SIST subsidiary Midwest Amusement Park—for enforcement of parking codes, and maintains she had a double-standard toward parking at the Mielke Arts Center.

Neither property is in the city.

Gronvall had filed a special exception request to the city in July of 2005 to use a location at 1501 E. Green Bay St. in the city for additional racetrack parking. The racetrack is located at W5901 County Road BE in the Town of Wescott.

According to city codes, non residential off-site parking needs to be within 750 feet of the facility being served. The racetrack is about 1.3 miles away from the Green Bay Street location. City officials denied Gronvall's request.

The racetrack was cited by Shawano police for using the Green Bay Street site for additional parking, and lost an appeal of the citations in Shawano County Circuit Court.

The pamphlet also accuses the city mayor of sending county authorities to enforce parking rules at the racetrack.

"It was obvious that the pressure from Lorna the Racist and her wolf pack was there when an official from the Shawano County Highway Department came out to the raceway to give them trouble," the lawsuit quotes the pamphlet as saying.

The lawsuit further quotes the pamphlet as stating that Marquardt "has a terminal disease (that) is causing her to do destructive things to Shawano's economy."

The pamphlet also accuses Marquardt of conspiring with the Shawano Leader against SIST, and includes doctored photos portraying then-publisher Rod Christensen, editor Kent Tempus, and Leader reporter Tim Ryan as orangutans.

The Leader is not part of the lawsuit.

The pamphlet was circulated in the city last fall. Gronvall personally handed the pamphlets out outside the courthouse, including one that he gave to a Leader reporter.

The pamphlets were also distributed at businesses owned by SIST subsidiaries Midwest Properties of Shawano, LLC, and Midwest Oil of Wisconsin, LLC, according to the lawsuit.

The material was also posted on a web site that has since been taken down.

The lawsuit also accuses Gronvall of "publishing additional defamatory statements" on Jan. 12 when a flier was distributed alleging that Marquardt was responsible for a decision by the Birch Hill Nursing Home not to take part in a discount coupon offer at the Best Western restaurant.

The hotel and restaurant are owned by a subsidiary of SIST.

The lawsuit asserts that Marquardt has suffered "emotional distress, anxiety, embarrassment, loss of enjoyment of life and other special damages."

The suit further maintains that her husband, Donald Marquardt, "was deprived of society and companionship of his wife and also suffered emotional distress, anxiety, embarrassment, and loss of enjoyment of life."

The lawsuit seeks $100,000 in monetary damages, punitive costs of $500,000, and legal fees.

The suit also seeks an injunction to keep Gronvall or SIST from publishing any further libelous material.

"This lawsuit is based upon a small community and people treating people right," said Marquardt's attorney, James Chereskin, who added that Marquardt had been treated in an undeserving and disrespectful way.

"Down the road, a jury of their peers will determine just how outrageous their conduct was," Chereskin said. He said the defendants would have 20 days to respond after they are served.

The City of Shawano is not part of the lawsuit.

"Taxpayers should know my husband and I filed this suit and will be handling the fees," Marquardt said. "Taxpayers will not be subjected to the cost of this suit."

Gronvall does not represent SIST

Shawano Leader/August 2, 2007

In stories published in the Friday, July 20, 2007 and Sunday, July 22, 2007 editions of the Shawano Leader, Kalmar G. Gronvall was incorrectly identified as a representative of the Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology Inc. (SIST).

Gronvall is not a representative of SIST, according to the attorney defending Gronvall and SIST against a libel and defamation lawsuit filed by Shawano Mayor Lorna Marquardt and her husband Donald.

Gronvall resigned from SIST's board of directors on June 1, 2006, according to an affidavit he signed and filed in Shawano County Circuit Court on June 22, 2007. A copy of the resignation letter, along with minutes of a SIST meeting in which Gronvall's resignation was discussed, were part of Gronvall's affidavit.

The attorney, Rebecca L. Gietman of Kaukauna, noted Gronvall left the board before producing a booklet in September 2006 criticizing Mayor Marquardt, other local officials and the Shawano Leader.

The Leader regrets the error.

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