Lawsuit filed by Friends group over Bogert statue

The Friends of Frank Bogert, formed last year to defend the honor of a former mayor whose statue is headed for removal from in front of City Hall, has decided to take its case to court.

In a news release issued Monday, the group said it was filing a civil suit against the city, alleging it violated its own municipal code relating to historic site preservation, as well as state and federal laws regarding “visual art on public display.”

The 21-page lawsuit repeats arguments Bogert supporters have made against removal of the art — first dedicated in 1990 — and seeks to prevent the statue’s removal. It goes on at length to defend the former mayor’s reputation, which the group’s attorneys claim was being besmirched in the name of “political correctness and cancel culture.”

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“Misled by their own politically correct intentions and City staff, the City Council in myopic fashion misleadingly focused on a ‘period of significance’ that was in 1957 and 1965, and then directed historic experts to focus only on architectural work at that time period.” the lawsuit states. “Unfortunately, this architectural work in 1957 and 1965 is not relevant nor controlling as no City Council resolution has ever defined it as a historic resource.

“In other words, the City Council’s approach was a self-fulfilling prophecy intended to meet a result that appeased certain woke citizens, but ignored the law.”

City officials said Monday they had not been served with the lawsuit, but that they didn’t expect it to go far if and when it’s filed.

“I can tell you that this lawsuit is utterly devoid of any legal merit,” City Attorney Jeff Ballinger wrote in an email. “If the petitioner proceeds with litigation, the case will be dismissed.”

At issue last year when the City Council elected to move forward with the statue’s removal was whether it was right to honor Bogert on city property. Bogert, who died in 2009, served as mayor twice, including during one of the ugliest periods in city history in the late 1950s through the mid-1960s. It was then that white business owners in town sought to remove leaseholders on tribal land — Section 14 — in order to enter into agreements that would allow them to develop the land.

Aside from removing the statue, the city has issued a formal apology to Section 14 residents and their descendants, many of whom are Black. Last week the Council directed city staff to move forward with formal reparations for the city’s actions.

Exactly when the statue will be removed, and where it will go, is still to be determined.

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