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Civic Skinny

Tyler Olson flounders. Nigerian scam works. Tirrell owes $96,656. Field of Nightmares?

12/11/2013

“What I’ve always really most admired about Tyler is he’s a family guy,” Tyler Olson’s wife, Sarah, says in a campaign video supporting her husband’s effort to get the Democratic nomination to run against Gov. Terry Branstad. She and the couple’s two young children figure prominently in the video.

Perhaps she’s having second thoughts. Last week, Olson announced he and Sarah are getting divorced, an announcement as sudden as it was stunning. The announcement raises questions:

First, how soon will he drop out of the race? You don’t surprise your friends and supporters and staff with a divorce announcement in the middle of the campaign — and in the holiday season, to boot. When something like that happens, there’s usually an intervening event. Whatever it is, or isn’t — “it’s a story as uninteresting as two people deciding to separate,” an Olson aide was quoted by Democratic blogger John Deeth — the rumors were everywhere within hours, and they’re not going to go away. Now, he has to deal with perception as well as reality, if they are not one and the same, and politically the combination is somewhere between difficult and deadly. It’s hard to see how he can survive, several Democratic politicians — including some big Olson backers — tell Cityview.

Second, if he drops out of the primary race, will somebody else jump in?

Third, who?

Fourth, how lucky is Jack Hatch? …

This is a true story.

So a couple of years ago a guy named Floyd Lee Madison got into some kind of trouble, and he hired Des Moines lawyer Robert A. Wright Jr. to represent him. In a stroke of good luck, Madison had been notified that “he was the beneficiary of a large bequest from his long-lost cousin in Nigeria,” according to Iowa Supreme Court documents.

The “bequest” was for $18,800,000, but, of course, Madison first had to pay $177,660 in taxes owed on the bequest in Nigeria. Of course. “In consideration for a fee equal to ten percent of the funds recovered, Wright agreed to represent Madison in the Nigerian transaction.”

Spoiler alert: Unless you are in Nigeria, this does not have a happy ending.

As it happened, Wright was also representing one Danny Wayne Rynearson in a felony criminal case, and Wright knew that Rynearson had some money. Rynearson and his wife chipped in $12,000, with the promise that they’d get $50,000 as soon as Madison got his inheritance. Later, they put up another $12,500.

Another Wright client, Linda Putz, was about to get $25,000 in a workers comp case, so she threw in all $25,000, with the promise she’d get $100,000 when the inheritance was collected. Another client, Toryan White, coughed up $7,000, and yet another, Vern Stodden, put in $160,000. Finally, Bob Nunneman added $20,000, putting the total at $236,500.

This is a true story.

Wright then started disbursing the money. Some went to persons in Nigeria who said they were in charge of the funds. Wright dealt with the “Central Bank of Nigeria,” the “African Union” and, according to the court, a person he believed to be the president of Nigeria. Then there was the Englishman named Johnson Walkers, “who claimed he had, on Madison’s behalf, traveled to Nigeria and investigated the legitimacy of the inheritance.”

Eventually, Wright was told the money had been shipped in two trunks to Spain, where a “diplomat” held them. The “diplomat” then said he needed about $35,000 for “logistic charges” before he could deliver the trunks, and he suggested in an email to Madison that he hide the money in his baggage and travel to Spain. Madison did go to Spain, presumably with the money, “and later told Wright he had seen the two suitcases but failed — for reasons not explained in the record — to obtain possession of them.”

This is a true story.

One thing led to another — but nothing led to the “inheritance” — the Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board filed a complaint saying Wright violated six ethics rules, and the state’s Grievance Commission agreed. Wright, who has practiced law in Iowa for more than 30 years and who was represented by Alfredo Parrish, then appealed.

He lost, and on Friday the Iowa Supreme Court suspended Wright’s license to practice law “for no less than 12 months.” Wright, who, the court noted, “has a long history of pro bono service to indigent clients and dedication to public service,” got no fees in the case. His clients lost all the money they put up.

If it makes Wright feel any better, the Supreme Court noted that “Wright is not the first Iowa lawyer who has become entangled in a deception with ostensible Nigerian connections.”

That was a true story. …

skinnyVilsack for Vice President? A guy in Washington says a rumor “that one ag lobbyist says is currently circulating in ag-world” is that the 2016 Democratic ticket will be Clinton-Vilsack. That’s Hillary Clinton and Tom Vilsack. …

Marty Tirrell, the sports shouter, has signed a “judgment by confession” conceding that his company, Mouth of the Midwest LLC, owes $96,656 plus interest and costs to Cumulus Media, which owns KBGG, the AM sports radio station at 1700 on the dial — one of many stations that once housed Tirrell’s radio show. The document was signed in May but just filed with Polk County District Court. Cumulus sued Tirrell and his company in March, alleging he owed Cumulus nearly $100,000. While the latest filing has Tirrell acknowledging he owes the money, the court documents also list the judgment as “unsatisfied.”

Meantime, a trial date has been set for the suits between Tirrell and Charles Gabus Motors. The court date is July 7, 2014. Mark it on your calendars. …

Another suit: Mary Middleton of Des Moines, who helped develop the City Lofts, has sued Green Cycle Housing, a Connecticut corporation, and Taf Efshtien, its president, alleging that on May 23, 2007, she lent them $1,000,000, at 12 percent interest. The loan was for a year, then was extended for six months, but so far nothing has been repaid.

“The total balance, with interest, is due and owing,” the suit says. A similar suit was filed in federal court. …

When last we left the Field of Dreams — in mid-2012 — the Iowa legislature had passed a bill promising up to $16.5 million in tax breaks for the Dyersville project, which was to be a 193-acre development with 24 fields, dorms and other stuff that kid baseball teams from around the nation would flock to.

It hasn’t quite worked out. The number of fields was scaled back to 12. Then to six. Neighbors sued over zoning changes — and then were sued by developers of the project. Politicians argued — and last month the mayor and two council members were thrown out. Jim Heavens, the ousted mayor, told the Dubuque Telegraph Herald that the election results mean the project is dead.

Meantime, Denise Stillman, the Chicago woman behind the proposed $38 million development — which has very little Stillman money in it — is having a hard time raising money. She has turned to a “crowd-funding” site in hopes of raising $950,000 in the month ending Dec. 19. As of Monday, she had raised just $1,445, including one $1,000 donation. The funds are needed “to finish our design and construction plans,” the website noted. If construction doesn’t start by the middle of next summer, the project loses its state aid. …

Branstad job watch: Iowa’s nonfarm employment for the month of October was 1,545,100, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. The total is up about 50,000 from when Branstad took office nearly three years ago — a time when he pledged to create 200,000 new jobs in five years. He has about 150,000 to go. Since Branstad took office, according to the LSA, Iowa’s percent of U.S. employment has declined; put another way, the growth in jobs nationwide exceeds the growth in jobs in Iowa. …

Nov. 6: Bruce Rastetter, president of the Board of Regents and Republican money-man, calls Iowa City and orders the university not to follow through with its plan to name a suite of offices in the REACH program after Sally Pederson, the godmother of the program and former Democratic lieutenant governor, because she’s a Democrat. (He ultimately backed off as the word got out.)

Nov. 19: Rastetter tells the Des Moines Conservative Breakfast Club — according to a story in the Quad-City Times — that “a personal challenge for him is to ‘eliminate the tag that we’ve been partisan when we have not.’ ” CV

Jokers