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Rapid City mayor wants dismissed from lawsuit

RAPID CITY (AP) — Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker wants his name struck from a lawsuit filed by a former city landfill employee who claims Kooiker's actions as a city councilman four years ago helped get him fired and damaged his reputation.

Magistrate Judge John Simko will decide whether Kooiker is immune from such claims because he was acting in his official capacity as a councilman, the Rapid City Journal reported ( ).

A court would consider benchmarks including "whether or not the conduct was within the scope of a person's duty," said Andrew Knecht, staff attorney for the South Dakota American Civil Liberties Union.

Randy Meidinger was fired as a landfill scale house attendant in 2009 during a police investigation of possible corruption prompted by Kooiker's probing of landfill practices. Meidinger was later cleared of all criminal charges.

Meidinger sued the city, Kooiker and several city employees in federal court last year, claiming his constitutional rights were violated. The lawsuit did not specify damages.

City Attorney John Nooney has filed documents asking a judge to dismiss the case and has asserted a claim of "absolute legislative immunity" on Kooiker's behalf. Nooney argues that as a council member any actions taken by Kooiker are covered by legislative immunity because he was acting in his official capacity.

Meidinger argues that Kooiker overstepped his authority to pursue an investigation into landfill operations that later became a foundation for his campaign for mayor.

Knecht said that in general, legislative immunity protects legislators, judges and public officials for decisions they make in the course of their public duties.

"What would breach that would be if they did something that was very egregious or blatantly outside what their discretionary authority is," he said.