The fight continues

Next round in the property severance battle is Tuesday in Des Moines

Monte Eaton of 2460A Reed Ave., is pictured at a city council meeting earlier this year asking for approval by him and two neighbors to sever their properties from the city.

On Tuesday, attorneys for the city of Marshalltown and three property owners embroiled in a property severance fight will argue before the State of Iowa’s City Development Board in Des Moines.

Their mission: Convince the board in a public hearing beginning at 3 p.m. at the Iowa Economic Development Authority their representative — which will help decide the case — should remain. Conversely, they will be arguing the other side’s representative should be disqualified.

Earlier this year, the 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.

It is the latest development of the contentious issue now in its ninth month.

City selected Hierstein

The city selected former City Administrator Richard Hierstein. He retired a number of years ago, but resides in Marshalltown, and remains active in the profession as a consultant.

Local attorney MIchael Marquess was hired by the three property owners earlier this year. He filed an affidavit alleging Hierstein had a conflict of interest, since he was a former city employee.

Property owner Monte Eaton filed an affidavit claiming Hierstein should be disqualified since the latter had an ongoing dispute with Monte Eaton’s father — the late Darrell Eaton — who served on the city council when Hierstein was administrator.

Marquess said if Hierstein does not remove himself, then he requested the CDB require his withdrawal.

Regardless, Hierstein denied his relationship with Darrell Eaton was extremely contentious, and also said he would be open-minded on the severance request.

County selected Duke

Marshall County selected Robert Duke, a highly-respected resident who had been called on before to resolve a number of issues.

The city contested Duke’s selection earlier this year.

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”).

In early August the two sides tried to resolve the issue with no success.

Consequently, the CDB will.

Ironically, Hierstein and Duke will sit on the committee for Tuesday’s hearing and decide if they will serve or not.

Thompson role

Marshall County Supervisor and Board Vice-Chairman David Thompson told the Times-Republican he strongly disagreed with a Aug. 17 article reporting he had taken sides because he signed a supplemental affidavit supporting the board’s choice of Duke.

Thompson’s affidavit also said he is personally familiar with Hierstein, as well as the late Darrell Eaton.

Thompson’s affidavit supported Monte Eaton’s claim his father and Hierstein were opposed on a number of issues.

“I have personally witnessed and can attest to the significant personal animus expressed by Hierstein towards Darrell Eaton,” said Thompson. “They were regularly opposed on city matters, and the friction between them became extreme. I have no doubt Hierstein is prejudiced against Petitioner Eaton in this matter due to this significant history. I am more than willing to give testimony in person in this regard.”

County position

“We (the board of supervisors) do not have a horse in this race,” Thompson told the T-R shortly after the Aug. 17 article was published. “The county already collects taxes from the three property owners. Regarding the affidavit, I was a a personal friend of Darrell Eaton and know where he stood on issues with Hierstein. Also, the board of supervisors thinks highly of Mr. Duke. We tried to get several people who live by the three property owners to serve on the CDB panel, but they declined, saying they did not want to make a decision which might anger a neighbor. I understand that. Consequently, we selected Duke.”

The beginning

The issue started in December last year, when Monte and Leisha Eaton, James and Susan Gruening, and Gregory and Linda Jacobs who live on, or whose properties adjoin College View Lane — made a formal application at the Dec. 27 city council meeting to sever their properties.

The council rejected their application by 3-2 vote. Voting to deny severance were MIke Gowdy, Joel Greer and Bethany Wirin.

The late Bob Schubert and Al Hoop voted to approve.

Creating additional drama to the one vote margin was the absence of at-large councilors Leon Lamer and Bill Martin.

The property owners and the city have disagreed since.

Now it is up to CBD board members, and perhaps Duke and HIerstein to make a decision on how the issue might go forward.

CDB members are: Barbara Brown, Cedar Falls; Jay Howe, Greenfield; Sarah Beatty, Sigourney; Richard Hierstein, Marshalltown City Appointee; Robert Duke, Marshall County Appointee and Dennis Plautz, Fort Dodge; and James Halverson, Cedar Rapids. CDB staff are: Matt Rasmussen, Board Administrator; Betty Hessing, Administrative Assistant and Matthew Oetker, Department of Justice. Rasmussen told the T-R severance requests earlier this year severance requests are rare.