Former bar owner sues Warren officials over closure

A Warren woman is seeking at least $2.5 million in a federal lawsuit filed against the city of Warren and city officials over the closure of her business, the Olympic Inn, following a shooting one year ago that injured a neighbor.

Linda J. Gadd, 559 Johnson Plank Road N.E., and Gadd’s Olympic Inn, 1129 Parkman Road N.W., filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court. It names as defendants Mayor Doug Franklin, council president Bob Dean, 7th Ward Councilman Eddie Colbert and 5th Ward Councilman Vince Flask. The now-shuttered business is in Colbert’s ward.

According to the lawsuit, Gadd’s first claim is that the city violated Ohio Sunshine Laws when it decided and disclosed the result of a City Council vote prior to the council meeting during which the issue was discussed. She claims that shortly after the Aug. 4, 2012, shooting, Colbert contacted her and asked her to meet with him and Flask to discuss the future of the business.

She said she was told by the councilmen that Warren City Council would be objecting to the renewal of her liquor license and a vote already had taken place and the result was 10-0 in favor of objecting to the renewal. She claims the meeting did not take place in public, and council later held a special meeting to officially vote on the matter without public discussion.

Gadd said Colbert told her she was not going to be able to continue operating the bar and he would “rather see grass growing in the parking lot,” the lawsuit states.

Gadd also said Colbert told her she should not even bother showing up at a special city council meeting because a vote already had taken place, she would not have the opportunity to speak there and if she showed up, she would be vilified in front of the media, the lawsuit states.

Gadd said she was never notified of the special meeting during which Council objected to the renewal of her liquor permit. She said she found out about the special meeting from Dean via telephone and he suggested she attend, but leave before the meeting’s conclusion.

She also said she has never been able to give her side of the story, and she voluntarily closed her bar “out of respect to the neighbors in light of what happened,” the lawsuit states.

In her second claim, Gadd states the city maliciously and intentionally interfered with her business, including interfering with the sale of the business and property to a third party, interfered with her liquor license  without just cause and damaged her business relationship with patrons. She claims Colbert and Flask advised her no sale of her business would take place unless they approved of it, and prior to the shooting, she was in the process of selling the bar but the sale fell through because of council’s actions.

In the lawsuit, Gadd claims the shooting, in which neighbor Pamela Dial was struck in the head by a stray bullet, did not take place on her property. She said shots were seen being fired from a parking lot owned by Warren Concrete, which is next to the Olympic Inn. She claims the intended target was located behind the fence that separates the bar from Dial’s house and the shots crossed the bar property, but did not originate from it.

She said the police investigation has not linked the shooter, Antonio Price, to her or the bar. Price pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 years in prison last month.

In her third claim, Gadd states that the defendants conspired to close the plaintiff’s business by any and all means necessary by defaming plaintiffs in the media; held closed door council meetings and other meetings where they decided the plaintiff’s fate without extending her due process; and acted in a discriminatory manner toward her.

She said she has not been able to re-open her business because of negative media attention and the actions of council, specifically their interference with her liquor license.

She also claims the defendants caused her emotional distress because of the negative attention she received as a result of the closure.

Gadd’s lawsuit states Dean, Flask and Colbert are being sued in their individual capacity because some of their actions “exceed the scope of their authority as City Council members.”

She is seeking at least $2.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees.

Gadd herself also is being sued. Dial and her husband, Terrance, filed a lawsuit against Gadd, the shooter, Antonio Price, and five unidentified employees of the Olympic Inn. They are seeking more than $100,000.

The lawsuit states Pamela Dial suffered permanent, disabling head and brain injuries, skull fracture, bone removal from her skull, scarring, concussion, post-concussion symptoms, post-traumatic stress, loss of executive function and her mental processing skills along with medical, paramedical, nursing and counseling care, past and future medical expenses, lost past and future income and diminished earning capacity.

The lawsuit states that in 33 months prior to the shooting, Warren police recorded 42 incidents of assaults, fights and disturbances at the Olympic during the period, nine incidents of gunshots being fired were at the address of the Olympic and three of those shots occurred within 13 days of the date Dial was shot.

The suit states that Gadd failed to employ security officers even after she discussed the move with Warren police; failed to post signs that there were security cameras recording activities; failed to adequately light the parking lot; and hired unskilled, untrained and ill-equipped individuals as bouncers at the bar.

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