Day 3: Monday testifies, doesn't recall "crook" comments
Lois Monday pulled no punches on the stand Wednesday.
Monday, being sued by Frank DeMarco for defamatory comments, was her colorful self on the stand Wednesday telling the jury she "truthfully" never recalls ever referring to DeMarco as a crook neither on the phone with Creston City Clerk Lisa Williamson in August 2009 nor in a public meeting.
This despite testimony from Bob Jansen, Ron Riley, and Williamson that all said Tuesday they, in fact, have heard Monday speak negatively of DeMarco and have heard her referring to him as a crook.
Monday told the jury the first time she ever "laid eyes" on Frank DeMarco was in August 2009 when he "traipsed" into her office. She told the jury her impression of DeMarco in that first meeting was that "he was arrogant."
"He tried to schmooze me," Monday said. "He told me Mike King told him I was the best realtor in town. Mike King would never say that."
Monday testified she believed DeMarco and King, former county supervisor, had an inappropriate relationship — that when King was on the Union County Board of Supervisors she'd see the two of them walking out of the Elm's Club together, that they "smirked" and "smiled" like they were "10 steps ahead of you, and you were the floor mat."
Monday testified for four years, from 2006-2009, while she was on city council, she'd been trying to set up a meeting with DeMarco to speak to him about the health-insurance plan, but believed City Administrator Joe Parker and DeMarco worked together to never allow that meeting to happen.
DeMarco's attorney Mark Sherinian asked Monday, if she really wanted to speak with DeMarco about the plan, why didn't she just look up the phone number to DeMarco's business and call DeMarco herself?
Monday stated she didn't do that because she felt like she need to go through the proper channels.
Sherinian then asked, when DeMarco came to her office (Monday's Realty) in August 2009, did she ask him about the specifics of the health-insurance plan then?
"No," Monday said. "He had four years to get a hold of me, and he never did."
Sherinian asked Monday about an incident between her and Ruth Bolinger, whereby Bolinger paid for an advertisement of a "madam dressed inappropriately, driving a 1963 Pontiac convertible, holding a pink flamingo" that was published in the "Winterset Exchange." The ad's intent was to defame Monday.
So, Monday filed an ethical complaint with the local board of realtors against Bolinger stating "that is not the way a professional performs."
Bolinger was later reprimanded by the board of realtors.
Sherinian asked Monday on the stand, doesn't that case resemble the one DeMarco has filed against you?
Monday said, "no, because I never filed a lawsuit."
Monday was released from the witness stand at 2:30 p.m. At that time, the plaintiff rested their case and Monday's attorney A. Zane Blessum called his first witness.
Sandy Hysell, county auditor, took the witness stand at about 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Hysell testified she had a good relationship with DeMarco and American Administrators "until the very end." Hysell said toward the end, the fund balance for the county's health-insurance was "extremely, extremely low for a self-funded program."
Hysell's comments were consistent with Union County's Supervisor Chairman Bob Brown's comments Tuesday stating the county has always struggled to keep a good fund balance under the self-funded plan administered by DeMarco.
Hysell said on two occasions the fund balance was negative and she had to transfer money from the general basic fund to cover health-insurance claims.
Sherinian noted the reason the fund balance was low may have been because of one particular county employee on dialysis who had large medical claims. Sherinian also referred to the rising cost of insurance as a whole. Hysell did not disagree with either statement.
Hysell, like Bob Brown, testified the switch from DeMarco's company to Bernie Lowe & Associates saved the county at least $5,000 per employee. Hysell said the county has approximately 70 employees.
Sherinian argued that DeMarco, like Bernie Lowe & Associates, also offered a fully-funded insurance option.
Hysell stated "he may have" but it was her understanding he was making a presentation to continue using a self-funded plan.
Dave Danielson, retired jailer in Union County, took the stand at 3:50 p.m. Wednesday.
Danielson spoke about the wellness program first implemented by DeMarco and the board of supervisors in 2009, whereby if a county employee worked out 12 times per month at the Southern Prairie YMCA or joined weight watchers they received discounts on their health-insurance plan and Creston Bucks.
The program was designed to make the county employee population healthier.
However, the program was modified by the board of supervisors because some employees lived out of town and didn't want to come back to the YMCA to workout. It was also modified for those who were out of town traveling.
Essentially, the program was run on the honor system and Danielson stated Wednesday that system did not work and it was abused by King and others.
"People were being dishonest," Danielson said.
Sherinian pointed out all records were kept at the YMCA, were officially approved through the auditor's office and discounts and rewards were dispersed by American Administrators.
Danielson told the jury it was his belief that DeMarco knew King had not met the required number of workouts (12), but was still dispersing the discounts and rewards to King anyway.
Court adjourned for the day at approximately 4:25 p.m. Wednesday.
The trial continues 9 a.m. Thursday morning and is scheduled to end Thursday afternoon. If and when a verdict is reached Thursday the Creston News Advertiser will post the details at www.crestonnews.com, and will follow up with more details in the daily edition Friday.