Former Tulsa County Fair Board Chairwoman Wants Lawsuit Against Her Dismissed

Friday, March 18th 2011, 5:13 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -  Attorneys for former Tulsa County Fair Board chairwoman Randi Miller have appealed a federal judge's ruling that a lawsuit filed against her by Rick Bjorklund can proceed to trial.

Bjorklund filed suit against Randi Miller and the members of the Fair Board at the time, after being fired from his job as CEO of Expo Square on July 1, 2008. 

The Fair Board voted to fire Bjorklund that day after learning Big Splash, a tenant at Expo Square, had not paid any rent for 2007 and that a check for half of its 2006 rent had gone uncashed.

The Fair Board, officially named the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority, is made up of the three Tulsa County commissioners and two citizens selected by them.  At the time of the firing, the board consisted of commissioners Randi Miller, John Smaligo and Fred Perry, as well as attorney Jim Orbison. 

Miller subsequently lost her bid for re-election when she was beaten in the primary by Sally Bell a few weeks later.

Three weeks after he was fired, Bjorklund filed suit against Randi Miller both individually and in her capacity as former chairwoman of the Fair Board, as well as Smaligo, Perry and Orbison in their capacity as members.

7/15/2008 Related story: Former Expo Square CEO Plans Lawsuit

In his suit, Bjorklund claimed Miller and the board violated his constitutional right to due process, breached his contract, and that Miller had intentionally inflicted emotional distress.  He asked for in excess of $75,000, according to court documents.

Bjorklund's lawsuit centered on his claim that Miller knew about the rent problems and had told him to keep Big Splash's lack of rent payments "off the radar," and that she had called him a liar in an interview with a newspaper reporter a week after he was fired. 

The rent issue was even more contentious for two reasons:

  • The board had let the lease for Bell's Amusement Park expire at the end of 2006, with Miller claiming in interviews that it was not a viable business.
  • Bjorklund's history with the owners of Big Splash.

7/1/2008 Related story: Bjorklund's Past Successful, Yet Controversial
8/30/2007 Related story:  News On 6 Investigation: What Really Happened To Bell's Amusement Park?

Both sides asked the judge considering the lawsuit for summary judgment in their favor.

On Tuesday, March 15th, 2011, United States District Judge Terence Kern issued a ruling granting some of their requests and denying others.

According to court documents, Judge Kern ruled that Bjorklund's claim that Miller violated his constitutional right to property can proceed against her in both her individual and official capacities, but that Bjorklund isn't entitled to any money damages if he wins.

Read The Judge's Ruling

Kern also ruled that Perry, Smaligo and Orbison have immunity because they were acting in their official capacities.

The judge ruled the claim that Miller violated Bjorklund's right to liberty can proceed against Miller only in her individual capacity, and he ruled in favor of Miller against Bjorklund's claim that she intentionally inflicted emotional distress.

On Thursday, March 17, 2011,  Miller's attorney filed an appeal with the United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, asking that court to overturn Judge Kern's order denying immunity for Miller.  As a result, Judge Kern issued a stay putting Bjorklund's lawsuit on hold until the appeal is decided. 

Read Miller's Appeal