Next round of property severance fight set Sept 13

ORGL

A date of Sept. 13 has been reserved, but not a time or location for the city of Marshalltown and the attorney for three property owners desiring to sever their properties from the city to argue motions in the latest development of the issue now in its eighth month.

The owners — Monte and Leisha Eaton, James and Susan Gruening, and Gregory and Linda Jacobs who live on, or whose properties adjoin College View Lane — claim they are paying city taxes but not receiving city services, an allegation the city denies.

Earlier this year the State of Iowa City Development Board asked the Marshall County Board of Supervisors and city to each appoint one representative that will help the CDB rule on the severance requests.

However, both sides will argue before the CDB to disqualify the representative each selected to sit on a special committee with the CDB to rule on the matter.

The city selected former city administrator Dick Hierstein.

Marshall County selected Robert Duke.

“We had a conference call Aug. 2 with the administrator and legal counsel for the City Development Board, and the attorneys for Marshalltown,” said MIchael Marquess, of Hinshaw, Danielson and Marquess, P.C. the attorney for the three property owners. “The purpose was to see if we could agree on a resolution to the motions to disqualify Mr. Hierstein and Mr. Duke. Unfortunately, no agreement could be reached. We have been informed that we are to argue the motions to the committee itself on Sept. 13. Interestingly, Mr. Hierstein and Mr. Duke will sit on the Committee for that hearing and participate in deciding whether they can continue to sit on the Committee. You have to love the logic of government.”

The city contested Duke’s selection last month.

Patrick O’Connell of Lynch Dallas PC, an attorney representing the city of Marshalltown, filed a Motion to Remove Local Representative Appointed by Marshall County, and a Resistance to Petitioners’ Motion for Disqualification of Local Representative with Hearing Requested.

He said said Duke did not live in the territory or area proposed to be severed, and therefore was ineligible to serve.

“It is evident from Mr. Duke’s address … he is not a resident of the territory (i.e. “land area to be severed”).

The city initially selected local attorney Sharon Greer. She was appointed by a 6-0 vote at the June 12 council meeting, with her husband and law partner, Second Ward Councilor Joel Greer, abstaining.

However, since that meeting, concern was expressed that her appointment “could have potential conflict of interest,” according to wording in a new resolution of June 22 which rescinded Sharon Greer’s appointment while selecting former Marshalltown city administrator Dick Hierstein.

However, local attorney Michael Marquess, who was hired by the Eatons, Gruening and Jacobs, asked Hierstein to remove himself from the CDB committee.

Marquess alleged Hierstein had a conflict of interest, since he was a former city employee.

Additionally Monte Eaton signed an affidavit claiming his late father and city councilor Darrell Eaton and Hierstein were “fiercely opposed on a number of issues.”

Marquess said if Hierstein does not remove himself, then he has requested the State of Iowa City Development Board require his withdrawal.

O’Connell, in his motion on behalf of the city, claimed in a separate motion Marquess’ motion did not sufficiently prove “Hierstein has personal biases both in favor of the city and against Petitioner Monte Eaton.”

“The subjective ‘beliefs’ expressed in Mr. Eaton’s affidavit as to why the city may have appointed Hierstein and whether Hierstein is capable of remaining objective in this a matter are purely speculative.”

The motion also requested the CDB hold a hearing on the Hierstein appointment.

County reaction

“That is really disappointing,” said County Supervisor Steve Salasek when told of the city’s protest. “We chose Duke because he is a very objective person, he has no feeling one way or another of this thing.”

Salasek added he did not have any particular feeling on the issue either. “We did what we were asked, to come up with someone who would be on this committee and let it go from there.”

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com