A U.S. district judge in February dismissed a lawsuit against Dunn County and several state and county officials involving unpaid property taxes.
Five Dunn County residents — Vincent Dominguez-Schugt, Mario Dominguez-Burguette and Roswitha, Stephan and Suli Dominguez — filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against 17 defendants on March 28, 2018.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit were Dunn County, the state of Wisconsin, the town of Weston, former Dunn County Sheriff Dennis Smith, former county supervisor Calvin Christianson, county clerk Julie Wathke, former Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and other county officials.
In the 39-page document, the five Menomonie residents accuse Dunn County and county officials of illegally taxing their property at N4698 90th St., Menomonie.
In 2008 the property’s owner, Stephan Dominguez, deeded the land to his father, Mario Dominguez-Burguette, with a quitclaim deed, according to the lawsuit. A Menomonie lawyer drafted the deed, and the document was recorded with the Register of Deeds.
From October 2008 to 2018, the town of Weston and the county contacted Dominguez-Burguette several times about unpaid or late property taxes involving the land.
During that time, the five plaintiffs suffered “severe financial loss, temporal hardship and personal anguish” and accuse the county of fraudulently assessing property taxes on their land and threatening to seize the property, according to the lawsuit.
Domínguez-Burguette suffered a heart attack in March 2015 as “a consequence of the anguish and stress” involving the late property taxes, according to the lawsuit. He died of heart disease in August 2018.
In the lawsuit, the defendants asked for $5.4 million for “loss of time and expenses incurred,” $100 million for emotional pain and suffering resulting in Dominguez-Burguette’s heart attack and reimbursement of court costs and fees.
The lawsuit also asked the district court to stop Dunn County from seizing the property, to order a jury trial and to consider criminal penalties against Dunn County and the named officials.
District Judge James D. Peterson dismissed the lawsuit on Feb. 21, saying the plaintiff’s opinions on property taxes were untrue under state law and calling the lawsuit’s legal theories “manifestly frivolous.”
The Menomonie residents’ assumption that they have an “’inherent right to own property without obligation’ is simply untrue,” Peterson wrote in his decision: The plaintiffs “come nowhere close to stating any claim for relief under federal law.”
Their “theories regarding the taxability of real estate are fundamentally flawed,” Peterson wrote.
Peterson also sanctioned the five plaintiffs, which allows a group of Dunn County defendants to submit a request to be reimbursed for the costs involved in the lawsuit.
However, Peterson cautioned the group of defendants to keep the costs reasonable: “Plaintiffs’ arguments were so clearly frivolous that defendants’ litigation efforts in response should not have been difficult.”
Peterson ordered defendants in the lawsuit to submit a list of expenses by Friday.
The plaintiffs have until March 22 to file objections.