Duluth councilor named in two lawsuits over unpaid debtDuluth City Councilor Jackie Halberg says she became ensnared in civil suits when a friend fell behind on business payments.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
Duluth City Councilor Jackie Halberg is named in separate civil lawsuits from a business and a bank claiming she owes them about $3,200.
Halberg, who represents the 4th District, which covers the Lincoln Park, Piedmont and Duluth Heights neighborhoods, said the problems stem from a past relationship with the operator of a local fish market. In one case, she said she’ll fight the lawsuit, in the other she said she’ll pay the money.
Last October, Carlson Refrigeration received a court judgment for $2,632.21 against Halberg and the owner of Howard’s Fish House, Mark Howard, for missed lease payments on an ice maker.
Neither party has paid, said Todd Carlson, a service manager and co-owner of the Superior-based refrigeration company.
Halberg, who was in a relationship with Howard, said that while she’s not named on the contract between the Fish Market and Carlson and was no part of the agreement, she’s now entangled in the situation because she wrote checks to cover payments as her friend’s business began to struggle.
Howard said he became injured and that his fishing nets were cut and as a result had difficulties keeping up with his bills.
“I made a personal decision to help out a friend,” Halberg said.
Carlson said Halberg was included in the suit because of her past involvement in making payments.
“When you’re going to sue, you sue everyone involved,” he said. “We brought everyone to the party.”
Though a court hearing was held on the suit, Halberg said she didn’t attend because she wasn’t notified about it. Howard didn’t attend either, and a judge ordered in favor of Carlson.
Carlson said he believed Halberg was informed of the court hearing but chose not to participate.
“It’s real easy to understand. When someone sues you and you don’t show up for court, you lose,” he said.
Halberg said she’s been wrongly saddled with the debt of her friend and that the case was handled sloppily, noting that her name was misspelled with an extra letter “L” in court documents.
She said she plans to hire an attorney in the hopes of taking the case back to court.
In the other case, Lake State Federal Credit Union in Moose Lake sued Halberg and Howard on May 20 for repayment of a $607.98 debt.
Halberg said Wednesday the credit union will be paid in full by Monday. She acknowledged some responsibility for that debt and said that she co-signed a $5,000 loan to help Howard when his fishing nets were vandalized.
The court complaint said that Halberg and Howard had defaulted on their loan agreement, stating: “At this time, they are unwilling to work with us to resolve the situation.”
Halberg said she never intended to turn her back on paying the credit union loan, saying the nonpayment was due to a miscommunication.
The suit is scheduled for a conciliation hearing on July 13.
Halberg announced on Monday she will seek election to Duluth’s 4th District City Council seat in November. She was appointed to the post in January to fill the remaining term of her predecessor, Kerry Gauthier, who was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives.
This isn’t the first time Halberg has faced legal troubles. She was sued in 2009 by the Range Credit Bureau, claiming she owed an unpaid bill of $285 to Bowman Properties. Halberg said she encountered financial difficulties after a workplace injury forced her to leave her Moose Lake job as a corrections worker in 2006.
She repaid that debt, and said she returned to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from the College of St. Scholastica. She said she now works at Kernz & Kompany, a Duluth special events and marketing firm.
When told about the recent financial lawsuits filed against Halberg, City Council President Sharla Gardner said she wasn’t aware of them, but remained supportive.
“I think that people like Jackie who have big hearts are the kind of people we need in public service,” she said.