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Jury sides with contractor in lawsuit against Lake County

TWO HARBORS, Minn. — A Lake County District Court jury has awarded Rohl Networks LP more than $2 million in the company's lawsuit against Lake County regarding work done on Lake Connections, the county's broadband network.

Jurors ruled in favor of Rohl Networks LP on Friday, Nov. 3, after five days of testimony and presentation of evidence.

Rohl, of Jupiter, Fla., was the main contractor during construction of Lake Connections from 2012 to 2015. Among other aspects of the lawsuit, Rohl claimed the county failed to pay what it owed for the work it performed, and didn't obtain contracts, permits and agreements in a timely manner necessary to allow the company to perform its work.

The jury found that under the three contracts — Phase 1, Phase 2A and Phase 2B — the county owed Rohl more than $25 million. Jurors also found that under those same three contracts, the county has so far paid Rohl more than $22.8 million.

The jury did not award Rohl any money for labor or materials supplied outside the scope of the contracts, and did not award the county any liquidated damages due to the delay of the project. The jury of eight did find that Rohl owed Lake County $223,961 for back charges and/or owner-furnished materials not installed in the project or returned to Lake County.

"This last week was a study about why government entities shouldn't get involved in private enterprises," Rohl attorney Gregory Spalj said during closing arguments.

In November 2016, Judge Michael Cuzzo granted the county's application to release property affected by a mechanic's lien filed by Rohl on the condition that the county deposit a bond totaling more than $3 million with the county court administrator, to be used toward any possible verdict or judgment in the case.

Adelle Whitefoot

Adelle Whitefoot is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota in Sept. 2014 when she started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., in 2012 with a bachelor's in English writing and has been a professional photographer since 2011. Whitefoot is the night general assignments reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

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