Mark Gietzen should be compensated by Wichita

In 2000, a bridge was built by the City of Wichita near Mark Gietzen’s house. Vibration from the construction process damaged Gietzen’s house. Nearly ten years later, Gietzen has not been compensated for damages.

It’s not that Gietzen hasn’t tried to receive payment for his damages. The mayor of Wichita at the time assured Gietzen that he would be compensated. There’s been a number of lawsuits. But so far, that hasn’t happened.

According to Wichita city attorney Gary Rebenstorf, the city has no responsibility for damage. That lies with Dondlinger & Sons Construction, the city’s contractor.

Besides Gietzen’s house, there are three other houses that are damaged, according to Gietzen. Two houses are owned by Vietnamese immigrants who don’t speak English. They’ve not been compensated for their damage, either.

Some of the evidence of wrong-doing is striking. For example, the company performed a soil test on Gietzen’s property. The soil they took to test, however, was topsoil that had been placed there during landscaping.

Gietzen has an estimate of $96,000 for repairs. Besides that, he’s been harmed in other ways. He hasn’t been able to refinance his mortgage to a lower interest rate. If he had wanted to sell his house, there would have been problems.

Gietzen believes that when the city treats citizens as he’s been treated, it’s bad for the city’s image. He also believes that his political activism — he’s a noted pro-life activist, very dedicated to his cause — is hurting his case.

When Gietzen brought this issue to the attention of the council at the November 3, 2009 meeting, former Wichita Mayor Bob Knight spoke on behalf of Gietzen. (Knight was mayor at the time of the incident. Most of his testimony that day is available below.) Summarizing the case, Knight said: “His house has been severely damaged by a public works project of this city that I love, and to cast Mr. Gietzen, with his resources, against government, against a large corporation … I happen to think Mr. Gietzen has been caught in a catch-22. I have confidence enough of this council, and manager Layton, and Gary Rebenstorf to figure out a solution to this, and to hold him harmless. He should be held harmless.”

Knight also said that Dondlinger’s legal counsel may be doing what’s legally correct, but there’s more at stake than that. It’s the credibility of our city, he said.

At the November 3 meeting, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, with support from several council members, asked Wichita city manager Bob Layton to look into this matter. On Saturday, Gietzen received the city’s response, which is to deny liability for damage.

Gietzen will bring this issue before the council at its meeting tomorrow.

Analysis

Gietzen and the other homeowners that suffered damage should be compensated for their damage. The fact that the other homeowners are immigrants who don’t speak English is a new factor in this case. Hopefully they will be able to seek redress for their damages, too.

Mayor Knight is absolutely correct in his assessment of this case. For the City of Wichita to hide behind contracts that shield it from liability is unconscionable. If Dondlinger (or its insurer) won’t take responsibility for its action, it seems that the city needs to revise its contract, or find a responsible contractor.

The fact that Gietzen’s politics may play a role in this is troubling, too. The original Wichita Eagle story reporting on the November 3 city council meeting carried a headline that referenced his anti-abortion activism. I don’t imagine that Mayor Brewer is a fan of Gietzen’s politics and his activism. That, however, should play no role in the settlement of this case.

13 thoughts on “Mark Gietzen should be compensated by Wichita”

  1. The city has no legal or contractual obligation to Gietzen. Gietzen apparently failed to take the necessary steps to pursue his claim against the contractor, a claim which the contractor apparently disputed and for which the financial damages were apparently not established. In watching the discussion at the council meeting, there are clearly a number of disputed facts and not all information was presented.

    I for one would object for the city to spend taxpayer money on claim which the city is under no obligation to pay and for which the facts are in dispute. If the claim were valid, then Geitzen should be able to recover any damages from the contractor’s general liability insurance.

    This post illustrates exactly why bloggers are not and should not be considered part of “the media”.

  2. Shame on Dondlinger Construction.
    Shame on the City of Wichita and shame on Pat, whoever you are.
    Kudos to former Mayor Knight for standing up

    “no legal or contractual obligation…” what about just doing the right thing.
    I doubt Mr. Gietzen caused the damage to his house…just as I am sure his neighbors did not damage their house.
    I hope Mayor Brewer will take a stand here and help a citizen that has been wronged. This is outrageous. Where is the ethical principle of our city?
    And Pat, your slam against bloggers was unwarranted.
    The Eagle biases its reporting daily…….what does Mr Gietzen’s ‘anti- abortion activism’ have to do with the damage to his home.

  3. Pat needs to remember that we still have the right to FREE SPEECH! Gietzen is being punished because he is a leader in the PRO-LIFE movement and a CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN. Mayor Brewer is a PRO-CHOICE DEMOCRAT. It is no more complicated than that. Kudos to Mayor Knight.

  4. Oh C’mon. My opinion has nothing to do with Geitzen and his political views nor does the matter of whether or not Geitzen is entitled to any monies. The blog doesn’t even cover all the disputed facts that were stated during the presentation to the council or the factual information concerning the incident. It just goes on to make some ridiculous implication that it has to do with Geitzen’s political views.

    Contractors who contract with the city are to provide general liability insurance and also builder’s risk insurance. The only thing that the city needs to do, which would be THE RIGHT THING TO DO, is to pressure Dondlinger to settle this matter or be disqualified from bidding future city work.

    When I read your ridiculous comments, I am reminded of a favorite quote, “Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt”.

  5. To Pat, who left a post at 2010-Jan-04, AM 11:28

    The City of Wichita does have a legal obligation, because I would have stopped the damage from occurring, when it first started to happen.
    In fact, I did stop the project for a few hours at the very beginning of the project.
    I work out of my home, and realized immediately that having objects shaken off shelves, and dropping to the floor, was not only bad for the breakable objects, but was also bad for the entire structure of my house!
    I allowed the project to continue, only upon the personal assurance, by Mayor Bob Knight, that all of the damage would be fully repaired when the project was finished. This was weeks prior to the major damage happening, with the pile-driving operations of the main bridge beams.
    However, I agree with you completely about the taxpayer’s responsibility!
    You, and I, and all taxpayers paid Dondlinger to do the job to industry standards. I assume that any competing bidder would have bid the project to “industry standards”.
    However, instead of drilling a hole for each bridge pile, and then inserting the pile, and filling the hole with concrete… as Dondlinger should have done, and was paid to do, they recklessly choose to pound the piles directly into the ground without any drilling whatsoever. This method saved Dondlinger tons of money, far more money than the entire cost of all four homes in question.
    However, all that money saved by doing a short-cut method, has stayed in Dondlinger’s pocket, while us four homeowners have paid the price for Dondlinger’s huge savings.
    I agree with you, that it should not be the taxpayers who pay again, because Dondlinger was paid in full for the job. They were paid 100% as if they had done the job 100% to industry standards.
    The root of the problem is that the City Attorney, Gary Rebenstorf, failed to put any time limit whatsoever on “when” Dondlinger would have to make the repairs to the damaged homes.
    The Court agrees with me, that Dondlinger must make the repairs, however, that could be 100 years from now, or even 2000 years from now, and that would still be well within the boundaries of Gary Rebenstorf’s Contract with Dondlinger.
    I went to Court, specifically asking the Court to compel Dondlinger to repair the damages at a given date, wanting the Court to set a reasonable date.
    However, Dondlinger sued me, for asking for something that the City of Wichita contract does not require, i.e. a “time certain”, when the repairs would be done.
    I ended up having to pay Dondlinger a sanction award of $225.00 because of the poor wording in the City of Wichita Contract, and The Court does not have the authority to write a new provision into a signed contract.
    Also, you should know that my own insurance company was excused from the case, because they argued in court, that the $97,000 in damage, as given in the Netco estimate, (which is less than what they would have estimated the damages to be) was ALL caused by an intentional act on the part of Dondlinger Construction Company to save money. This is not a covered peril under my policy. (I agreed with the Court on that one.)
    Finally, a citizen does not have the legal right to sue the insurance company of a contractor. In this case, Traveler’s Insurance Company is responsible only to Dondlinger, because Dondlinger pays the premium.
    My only option is to sue Dondlinger, but thanks to Gary Rebenstorf, Dondlinger can wait for all eternity to make the repairs, and still be in compliance with Rebenstorf’s poorly-written contract.
    What did we four homeowners do to deserve this?
    What would you do next?

  6. Pat , you are 100% correct…the right thing to do is for the city to hold Dondlinger responsible. That was my intended implication in my earlier comment….hoping that Mayor Brewer would step up and exert some pressure on Dondlinger.

  7. Thanks Mark for the information and providing the factual circumstances. Obviously, it was upon reliance of the city’s representations that you would be made whole that work was allowed to proceed. As such, then the city should be and would be responsible. I’m sure your legal counsel has given you the pros and cons of initiating legal action directly against the city and the likelihood of prevailing in such action. Furthermore, I’m sure because of the time that has transpired other potential options are no longer available. The city apparently did nothing to protect you under the terms and framework of the construction contract. Perhaps the city was also negligent in its administration of the contract, meaning they failed to hold retainage until you were made whole.

  8. Mark, went back and watched the video of today’s meeting. Is it possible to sue the contractor for negligence as a tort claim not as an insurance claim? Get an attorney who might take it on a contingency. Suggest Terry Malone who knows construction. Also the project inspectors should have daily reports that will indicate the type of piles and the installation methods.

  9. Mark S. Gietzen is just a looter going after a corporation that provides wealth and opportunity for its owners and employees. This is just an attempt to use government to go after a corporation that was simply doing what it was contracted to do. Mr. Gietzen should be quiet and be thankful that he lives in America! How dare he go after a business like this. Just another socialist using the government.

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