Change of plan

City council votes 5-1 to place special election approval vote on Jan. 22 meeting agenda

A special election to fill the vacant Marshalltown City Council second ward seat will be voted on at the Jan. 22 regular meeting as the council changed its initial plan fill the seat by appointment at Monday’s meeting.

“I do think it’s very important that the people of the second ward get a choice, and if we can’t come to a consensus now on the candidate, I do think that we need to put it back to the people,” said First Ward Councilor Sue Cahill after making a motion at Monday’s meeting to direct city staff to place a resolution for a special election on the Jan. 22 council agenda.

Her motion was seconded by at-large Councilor Bethany Wirin, and the council voted 5-1 in favor of putting the item on the next meeting’s agenda for an approval vote. At-large Councilor Leon Lamer was the sole “no” vote, while Cahill, Wirin, Third Ward Councilor Mike Gowdy, Fourth Ward Councilor Al Hoop and at-large Councilor Bill Martin voted in favor.

Marshalltown City Clerk Shari Coughenour said the special election would have to take place sometime within 32-90 days of Jan. 22.

“That’s the range where the election has to happen,” she said, adding she plans to communicate with Marshall County Auditor and Recorder Nan Benson today to begin preparations for the election.

The approval came after extensive discussion on which of the four second ward appointment candidates’ names to put on the Jan. 22 agenda for an approval vote. However, none of the three motions to put a candidate’s name on the agenda passed.

Wirin motioned for appointment candidate Jay Carollo to be put up for consideration, seconded by Hoop. The motion failed 4-2, with Wirin and Hoop voting in favor and Martin, Cahill, Gowdy and Lamer voting against.

A motion to put appointment candidate Brittany O’Shea’s name on the next meeting agenda was made by Hoop and seconded by Gowdy. That motion failed 4-2 as well, with Gowdy and Hoop in favor and Wirin, Cahill, Lamer and Martin against.

Martin motioned for appointment candidate Bob Untiedt to be put on the agenda, seconded by Cahill. That, too, failed 4-2; Martin and Cahill voted in favor while Gowdy, Hoop, Lamer and Wirin voted against.

A motion was also made by Lamer and seconded by Wirin to set a closed session at the Jan. 22 meeting. It was made after O’Shea and fellow appointment candidate Leigh Bauder requested such a session for the council to discuss them as candidates; the motion failed 5-1, with Lamer as the sole “yes” vote.

Also discussed at Monday’s meeting was a proposed ordinance to establish licensing of massage therapy businesses in the city.

“City Administrator (Jessica) Kinser and myself met with several of the local licensed massage therapists recently and had a very productive discussion,” said Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper. “As a result of that discussion, we made some edits, or some revisions, to the ordinance that we first brought to you a few weeks back.”

He said he was confident that the ordinance would help the police department fight illicit activities using massage therapy businesses as fronts for prostitution, human trafficking and other criminal acts.

However, the first reading of the ordinance was tabled after multiple licensed massage therapists (LMTs) practicing in Marshalltown, as well as attorneys Norma Meade and Larry McKibben of Moore, McKIbben, Goodman and Lorenz LLP, expressed opposition to the ordinance.

The LMTs and attorneys argued that the ordinance targeted and discriminated against legitimate massage therapy businesses, and that such a measure alone would not stop prostitution or trafficking from happening in Marshalltown.

Another argument made against the ordinance was that the state already licenses and regulates massage therapy businesses. However, Tupper argued that the state is often slow to respond to complaints of illegal activities concerning illegitimate massage therapy businesses; he also said the ordinance would be one “tool” for the police department to use to fight illicit businesses.

“We are here today to support each other, as we feel this ordinance is only being directed toward our chosen profession, and those of us who are following the law,” said LMT Laura Kuesel, who said she has practiced in Marshalltown for 12 years.

Fellow LMT Rachel Brown, owner of Rachel Brown Massage Therapy in the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA, said all of the people who spoke against the ordinance agree that prostitution and sex trafficking should be stopped. She also said LMTs do not appreciate being associated with such illegal activities.

“We have been publicly linked to that horrible stigma,” Brown said. “The City of Marshalltown currently houses 13 Iowa-licensed massage therapists; not a single one of us wants to see criminals setting up shop as a massage therapy business or any business.”

After extensive discussion, Wirin motioned to table the proposed ordinance, seconded by Cahill. The motion approved 4-2, with Gowdy, Martin, Wirin and Cahill voting in favor; Hoop and Lamer were the “no” votes.

The next Marshalltown City Council meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 22, in the Council Chambers on the third floor of the Carnegie building, 10 W. State St.

——–

Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com