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Hensel, Little Falls settle lawsuit

The Little Falls City Council and peace activist Robin Hensel have reached tentative agreement on a 2012 First Amendment lawsuit she filed against the city.

The council Monday voted 6-1, with one abstention, to approve the settlement. The settlement states the following terms:

• There is no admission of liability by any party.

• Hensel will receive the right to rent advertising space on a bench on Little Falls City Hall property.

• The city will pay $39,500 to Paladin Law Trust Account.

• Hensel will indemnify the city and the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust against tax liability on the monetary settlement.

Voting yes on Monday were council members Loren Boyum, LeeAnn Doucette, Don Klinker, Jeremy Hanfler, Brian-Paul Crowder and Greg Zylka. Voting no was council member Frank Gosiak. Mayor Catherine VanRisseghem abstained from voting.

The agreement will be in effect after a judge signs off on it.

The dispute between Hensel and the city goes back to 2011 when the Little Falls woman put up political signs in her yard. In January U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle threw out portions of Hensel’s case but granted her motion regarding the city’s old bench ordinance, which has since been replaced. A jury trial was set to be scheduled on Hensel’s damages with respect to the claims regarding the old bench ordinance.

Hensel declined to comment on the settlement. Her attorney, Larry Frost of Paladin Law, said the money that is expected to be awarded would offset Hensel's legal fees. He said the agreement wasn't final until it was accepted by the judge. Paul Reuvers, the city’s attorney expressed satisfaction Wednesday with the settlement.

“I think it’s a good resolution to the case,” he said. “There’s no admission of liability. It’s an economic decision made in the best interest of the city.”

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at 855-5860 or Follow on Twitter at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860