German Village Gazette

Maennerchor awarded $756,000 in judgment

Jury rules Walter Reiner interfered with sale of headquarters

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A former Columbus Maennerchor board member who was ordered to pay the organization $756,000 has filed a motion for a new trial.

A Franklin County jury has decided that Walter Reiner interfered with the sale of the Maennerchor's Brewery District headquarters.

The jury awarded the Maennerchor $378,130 in compensatory damages and the same amount in punitive damages.

Another defendant, Clarence Maxwell, was not liable, the jury found.

Reiner, meanwhile, has asked the Franklin Court of Common Pleas to set a new trial seeking to overturn the judgment.

The issue began in 2007, when the Maennerchor's board decided to sell the property in a contract proposed by Reiner, a real-estate developer.

The jury found that Reiner should not have participated in the board vote to sell the real estate and that he wrongfully discouraged another buyer offering a higher price for the property, 966 S. High St.

The Maennerchor cited those allegations as a counterclaim in a lawsuit originally filed by Reiner, Maxwell and others to collect on asserted debts, said attorney Michael J. O'Reilly, who represented the Maennerchor with Stephen Brown.

In December 2006, Reiner made an offer to purchase the property for $1.1 million, about half of the market value, the lawsuit alleged.

In 2007, the Maennerchor had been negotiating with local developer Stonehenge Co., which had agreed to pay $2 for the property.

Because of Reiner's "continued and persistent interference" with the sale, Stonehenge walked away from the deal, according to the lawsuit.

Reiner's attorney, Steven Dodd, could not be reached for comment.

In January 2011, the Maennerchor sold most of the property, including the building, for $1.3 million to Columbus City Schools, which is using the land for the expansion of Stewart Alternative Elementary School.

Meanwhile, the Maennerchor is moving to the Dutch House, to be renamed the German Heritage Haus, directly to the south.

The building is currently under renovation. The plan is to use some of the money from the judgment for expenses occurred in the relocation.

O'Reilly said Maennerchor officials are not counting on the money any time soon because the issue could be tied up in litigation for the next six to nine months.

"They have a realistic recognition that it will take a little while yet for the post-trial process and the payment of judgment to occur," he said.

"And their plan is to use that money toward the renovation of the Dutch House."

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