A lawsuit filed against City Councilman Jack Benson in behalf of a developer who was unable to get a lot on Gunbarrel Road rezoned for an IHOP has been dismissed.
Circuit Court Judge Marie Williams directed that Issa Bassam pay the court costs.
The suit claimed that Councilman Benson "in an effort to get the necessary votes for denial, lied to several members of the City Council by, among other ways, specifically telling the members that (Bassam) Issa attempted to bribe Benson with $2,500 cash in return for Benson's affirmative vote.
Judge Williams said comments and conversations about the rezoning were within the City Council's purview and protected by legislative immunity.
She said in the four-page ruling, "In summary, any of the statements plaintiff alleges defendant made to other City Council members were directly related to matters within in the scope of the City Council's authority, were made within the context of proposed legislation, and are protected by the legislative privilege, litigation privilege, or both."
Councilman Benson said earlier he did talk to other council members about developer Issa "because I wanted them to be leary of any kind of veiled approach."
The councilman said, "I was told by two members of the Friends of East Brainerd that he (Issa) offered to donate $2,500 to them if they would help get the rezoning. That was a quid pro quo."
Councilman Benson said Mr. Issa came to his office to make a plea for the rezoning. He said, "I was trying to get rid of him and I was rushing him out the door when he said, 'Is there anything I can do to get you to support the rezoning?'"
The councilman said he was told by one of Mr. Issa's associates "that Sam won't take no for an answer."
The nine-page lawsuit filed by attorney John Anderson also said Councilman Benson called Mike Baker of Erlanger Health System to have him appear before the City Council and oppose the IHOP. Councilman Benson said, "I did call Mike Baker. I felt like Erlanger ought to have a voice in what happened since they are nearby."
Councilman Benson said he opposed the rezoning because the 2001 Hamilton Place Plan calls for offices along that section as a buffer for a nearby residential area.
He said several months before Mr. Issa bought the property that the council had turned down a similar request for the Brick Oven Grille. He said Mr. Issa was able to buy the land at a non-commercial rate after that action.
Councilman Benson said, "If we had then turned around and approved the request for an IHOP, then Brick Oven Grille would really have a grievance against us."
The suit asked a judge to order the approval of the requested rezoning.
It said the City Council had wavered eight times from the 2001 plan and it was intended to be "tweaked" along the way.
Councilman Benson was represented by attorneys Travis McDonough and Jack Benson Jr.