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Update: First witness called in DeMarco, Monday trial

Published: Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 2:01 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 8:13 a.m. CDT

The first day is over.

In the civil lawsuit between plaintiff Frank DeMarco of American Administrators and Union County Supervisor Lois Monday, a jury was selected, opening statements were made and the first witness was called Monday.

First witness

DeMarco was the first witness called, taking the stand at approximately 3:15 p.m. Monday.

DeMarco told the jury about a phone conversation he overheard at Creston's city offices in August 2009. DeMarco said that day he was in the office of Lisa Williamson, city clerk, waiting to speak to the city administrator when Williamson received a phone call.

It was Lois Monday.

"I was four or five feet away from Lisa's desk," DeMarco told the jury, "but I could easily hear the voice on the other end of the phone."

DeMarco said Monday was speaking so loudly Williamson was forced to hold the telephone a foot or so away from her ear because of the excessive volume.

During that phone call, DeMarco overheard Monday call him a crook and liar. DeMarco also alleges Monday asked Williamson for the correct spelling of his name and for his insurance agent number.

Once Williamson hung up the phone, DeMarco went into Mike Taylor's office for discussion. DeMarco was in Taylor's office for about one hour.

Following that meeting, DeMarco verified the location of Monday's Realty on Adams Street and paid her a visit.

"In my business it is all about fixing problems," DeMarco told the jury, "so I decided to go there, introduce myself, talk to her about the county's policy and try to find a resolution."

DeMarco told the jury he resolved nothing at her office that day — that his visit to her office was similar to the phone call where she again called him a crook, liar and criminal.

"I felt worse when I left (her office) than when I walked in," DeMarco said.

Letter to the editor

DeMarco's attorney Mark Sherinian then pointed out, four days after their meeting, Monday wrote a letter to the editor in the Creston News Advertiser, which stated DeMarco's conduct with respect to the county's health-insurance plan was "disgraceful" and "was not truthful in many remarks."

In the same article, Monday implied DeMarco acted this way because he "likes the guaranteed commission check."

Judge Randy Hefner adjourned court for the day at about 4:20 p.m. Monday. DeMarco was still on the stand and had not been cross-examined yet by Monday's attorney A. Zane Blessum. The case will resume 9 a.m. this morning.

The trial is scheduled through Thursday. The Creston News Advertiser will provide updates in our print edition daily and check for updates on our website at www.crestonnews.com throughout the day as details become available.

Opening statements

Sherinian told the jury "this case is simple," stating it comes down to two questions. Did Lois Monday make statements calling DeMarco a crook, liar, criminal and someone who steals? And second, did Monday publish those remarks to other people?

Sherinian said he has testimony from Bob Jansen, DeMarco, Williamson and Ron Riley that Monday did in fact call DeMarco a crook. Sherinian said he also has testimony from Tandy Steele that Monday did in fact call DeMarco a liar.

Sherinian added because of those remarks DeMarco's reputation was injured and he potentially lost business at Greater Regional Medical Center and in Ringgold and Audubon counties.

Blessum countered by admitting his client Lois Monday "has a mouth" and that's not something he can take away from her, but stated the reason why Monday was so vocal about this issue is because "she cares about the community" and "cares about saving taxpayer money."

Blessum told the jury, Monday did push the board of supervisors to switch health insurance administrators after being elected in January 2011. And, as a result of getting rid of DeMarco and American Administrators and switching to Bernie Lowe & Associates of Ankeny, the county saved almost $200,000 in health-insurance costs in the first year after DeMarco's departure.

Jury selected

The jury was decided 1:15 p.m. Monday at the Union County Courthouse.

The eight jurors are Ken Smith, Ron Jackson, Jim Wilson, Dwight Kirkpatrick, Thomas Eagan, Tamara Ross, Debbra Neve and Janet Walter.

Case summary

DeMarco, senior vice president of American Administrators, was Union County's health-insurance administrator for more than 12 years. But, he was dismissed in May 2011 when the board of supervisors voted to switch to Bernie Lowe & Associates of Ankeny.

Now, DeMarco is blaming county supervisor Lois Monday for lost business. DeMarco filed a civil lawsuit in 2010 against Monday, alleging over the past three years, Monday made third-person false and defamatory comments that injured the reputation and maintenance of American Administrators.

According to court documents, DeMarco states those defamatory comments included:

• In August 2009, Monday stated to one or more individuals in the Creston city manager's office that DeMarco was a crook and a criminal, and that he lies and steals

• In August 2009, Monday published an article in the Creston News Advertiser which stated DeMarco's conduct with respect to the county's health-insurance plan was "disgraceful" and "was not truthful in many remarks." In the same article, Monday implied DeMarco acted this way because he "likes the guaranteed commission check."

• In February 2010, Monday published an article in the Creston News Advertiser which stated DeMarco engaged in "double talk" and "innuendos" and had improperly "hid behind HIPAA." In the same article, Monday referred to DeMarco and his employees as "bulldogs" and recommended the city of Creston remove American Administrators as its third-party administrator.

In the judgment, DeMarco is asking for compensatory damages in the amount to be proven at trial, punitive damages, cost of this action, and all other relief deemed appropriate.

Witnesses that may be called this week submitted by DeMarco include: Mike King, Dennis Brown, Bob Brown, Bob Jansen, Ron Riley, Lisa Williamson, Tom Steigel, Brian Schon and Monday.

Witnesses that may be called this week submitted by Monday include: Craig Mittag, Mindy Schafer, Curt Turner, Linda Marley, Karon Finn, Mary Jane Weisshaar, Ruby Dibel, Dave Danielson, Sue Carson, Jamie Ray, Sandy Hysell, Tandy Steele, Skip Lowe, Tim Kenyon and Mary Moore.

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