Was Kasel Associates Industries, a pet-treat factory in the hip River North neighborhood, harmed by receiving an odor citation after five neighbors called to complain about the smell? No way, say the City of Denver and a neighbor whom factory owner Ray Kasel is now suing for harassment. Their responses are the latest legal filings in the lawsuit between Kasel, the city and his neighbors -- which were the subject of our recent cover story, "Raising a Stink."
In April of this year, the city cited Kasel Associates, known to its neighbors as the "Pig Ear Factory" because it uses pig ears in its products, for violating the city odor ordinance -- specifically, a clause that allows the Department of Environmental Health to issue a citation if it receives five smell complaints from different households within a twelve-hour period about a single entity and "verifies the source of the odor."
Kasel was fined $500 for the smell violation. But instead of paying it, he appealed.
When he lost that appeal, he sued the city in federal court for conspiring against him, harassing him and violating his constitutional property rights. He also sued three employees of the Department of Environmental Health, including manager and former city councilman Doug Linkhart; three complaining neighbors, including artist Sharon Brown; city councilwoman Judy Montero; and Montero's former assistant, Stephanie Syner, whom Kasel accuses of drumming up the complaints.
Their actions, Kasel asserts in the suit, "constituted an unlawful conspiracy to defame [his] reputation" and led to "annoyance, inconvenience, stigma...[and] litigation costs."
The city and Brown have both filed motions to dismiss Kasel's lawsuit. They argue that his factory hasn't been harmed by receiving a single odor citation and therefore has no claim. "Nothing about the fine curtailed or stopped any manufacturing at the Kasel plant," Brown's lawyer wrote in a recent motion. Brown's lawyer also argues that Brown's and the other neighbors' complaints were legal under the city ordinance.
"The Denver County ordinance in question simply required five people who had smelled the odor, within the specified period of time, to register a complaint," he wrote. "Despite (Kasel's) protestations that such conduct is 'unlawful,' it is not."
Kasel filed a response to their motions to dismiss, estimating the cost of years of unwarranted inspections, legal fees and damage to his reputation at more than $1 million. The city and Brown responded; the quote above is from Brown's response. Now it's up to a federal court judge to decide whether Kasel has a case.
Continue to read Kasel's original complaint, the city and Brown's motions to dismiss the lawsuit, Kasel's response to their motions to dismiss, and the city and Brown's responses to his response.
Continue reading for Kasel's response and more.
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More from our Follow That Story archive: "The nose knows: To be a city odor inspector, you have to have the right sense of smell."Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org