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Civic Skinny

August 16, 2012
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Why your plane was late. And what are ‘high marks?’

What one billion dollars looks like.

If you were one of the 128 people who had to get off a Florida-bound plane and go through security again at the Des Moines airport on March 18 of last year, here’s who you should be pissed at:

Gary Hagan.

Hagan was — and the operative word here is “was” — the marketing coordinator at the Des Moines airport for eight years. On that March 18 day, an acquaintance from his church arrived at the airport too late to get a boarding pass at the ticket counter for his flight to Florida, according to court papers. So Hagan, a helpful sort with airport security clearance, walked the suitcase-carrying man outside of the airport and then back into the gate area, hoping he could get a boarding pass there.

The ever-watchful agents of the Transportation Security Administration saw all this and declared a breach of security. After meeting with their bosses, the plane’s pilot and the man himself, the agents then made the 128 passengers deplane and go through security screening again. The flight was delayed 47 minutes. What’s more, an inbound flight scheduled for the same gate had to wait on the tarmac for more than an hour, waiting for the outbound flight to leave.

Hagan was placed on paid administrative leave, and after an investigation he was fired on June 28. He appealed the firing to the Des Moines Civil Service Commission, which in April of this year upheld the termination. He now has appealed to Polk County district court, asking that he be rehired and given his back pay. He says he told his friend that after getting the boarding pass he would have to double back and go through security. What’s more, he says, there was no rule against what he did.

A nonjury trial is set for Jan. 23.

On LinkedIn, Hagan now lists his occupation as “career counseling.” ...

All 74 judges up for retention this year “received high marks on the 12 questions...for their professionalism and demeanor as determined by the attorneys who voted in the bi-annual Judicial Performance Review...,” says the website of the Iowa State Bar Association.

Well, it depends on what you consider “high marks.”

If you consider answers of somewhere between “neither agree nor disagree” and “disagree,” then Rachel Seymour of Polk County got high marks. Otherwise, not so high. One of the questions was “avoids undue personal observations or criticisms of litigants, judges and lawyers from bench or in written opinions,” and she got a 2.94 on a scale of 5 on that one — which would be an F in school. She also got a 2.94 on “is courteous and patient with litigants, lawyers and court personnel.” The only other judge in the state to get a mark below 3 was Dale Ruigh, a 30-year judge in Ames. He got a 2.85 on “promptness of rulings and decisions,” but nevertheless 93 percent of the lawyers who voted in the bar-association review recommended a vote for retention.

Three judges received 100 percent support for retention — Joseph Moothart of Cedar Falls, Todd Hensley of Sioux City and Craig Dreismeier of Council Bluffs. Seymour’s 61 percent was the lowest support for retention. ...

From last Wednesday’s Fort Dodge Messenger: Rep. Steve King said “he’s thinking about introducing a bill, which if it became law, would repeal everything Obama has signed into law.” ...

Wall buster: A faithful Des Moines Register online reader — faithful but cheap — has figured out how to beat the website’s new paywall, in which readers are allowed to view just a few articles each month before having to cough up for full access. “The paywall is more or less defeated by simply disabling JavaScript in one’s web browser,” the Robin Hood of the Internet tells Skinny. “The method works reasonably well for me on Internet Explorer or Firefox in Windows, Safari on iPad, and my Android phone’s browser.” Cityview’s vast technology department checked out his claim, and it works — at least until the Register’s tech geeks read this. ...

The arrest of Russ Wasendorf of Cedar Falls and the charges of massive fraud aren’t going to impact the finances of any Iowa politician. He gave sparingly, at most. In 2010, he gave $2,000 to losing Republican legislative candidate Darin Beck, and in 2008 he gave $500 to Cedar Valley Democratic candidates Doris Kelley, Jeff Danielson, Bob Kressig and Deborah Berry. In 2004, he gave $5,000 to the Bush-Cheney campaign and $750 to the Republican National Committee. He has never given to an Iowa Congressional candidate, according to the Federal Election Commission. ...

A few years ago, former legislator and current lobbyist Ned Chiodo was terribly ill and, in fact, died while being treated at the Mayo Clinic. He was revived, of course, and now runs the city’s three golf courses — and regularly exasperates city administrators. At Chiodo’s 70th birthday party at the A.H. Blank course the other evening, former legislator and current lobbyist Scott Newhard told a story. When Chiodo died, Newhard related, he went straight to heaven and was greeted by St. Peter. Ultimately, God told St. Peter to send Ned back until his beloved Cubs win the World Series. “That’s the best news I’ve heard all day,” Chiodo replied.

The part that some city officials might have a hard time believing: the “went straight to heaven” line. Surely he stopped to argue with everyone along the way. ...

Cabaret West Glen, the popular West Des Moines nightclub, has been sold by Tim Kellogg to Midwest Venture Capital, a company founded by entrepreneurs Doug Aldridge and Andy Martin, both of whom were executives at Tone’s Spices. Kellogg says he is excited to spend time with his family and hopes to assist other establishments with branding and marketing. Cabaret West Glen opened in November 2006 and continues to incorporate options for smoking and non smoking nightlifers. ...

If Gary Hagan is rehired at the airport, one thing he might want to do — besides not ushering pals around the security lanes — is to correct the spelling of Khrushchev in that aging history of the airport down in the counter area. The name is misspelled several times and has been for years.

Meantime, the airport seems to be doing just fine without Hagan. In the first six months of this year, 505,046 people got off commercial flights in Des Moines and 507,428 got on. That combined total of 1,012,474 is up 9.59 percent from a year before, according to the airport. The trend is likely to continue after Southwest Airlines begins operations in Des Moines next month. (Ticket prices already are starting to fall.) And planes arrived on time 81.2 percent of the time in the first six months, the highest rate in 10 years and sharply above the 71.76 percent of a year before, according to the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Similarly, 85.4 percent of the flights left the gate on time, the highest percentage since 2003. And only 92 of the 5,512 scheduled departures were canceled, also the lowest number in at least 10 years.

Skinny was ticketed on all 92 of those flights.

The federal government defines “on time” as within 15 minutes of scheduled time. The definition was written by the same guy who defined a score of less than 60 percent as “high marks” for Iowa judges.

You can go home again: John Karras, co-inventor of RAGBRAI and long-retired Des Moines Register newsman, and his wife, Ann, are house-hunting in Des Moines, planning to return after several years in the mountains of Colorado.

“When it rains, it pours.” — Nancy Sebring. CV

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