Friday, April 18, 2014

TallgrassIowa CubsPolitical AdIowa Living MagazineAnnual ManualInternship

Des Moines Art CenterTallgrassDM RelishIowa Living MagazineMarci Boudreaux

Civic Skinny

Franchise-fee lawyers appeal for more fees. John Deeth is funny. Godfrey will get his day.

1/8/2014

The lawyers who beat the city in the franchise-fee case aren’t satisfied with their $7 million in fees awarded by Polk County District Judge Joel Novak. On the day after Christmas, the last day possible to file an appeal, Brad Schroder, Bruce Stoltze and Steven Brick went back to court, saying the court “failed to award sufficient and appropriate Plaintiffs’ attorney fees.”

Initially, they asked for $14,773,967, about 37 percent of the $40 million awarded to Des Moines utility-bill payers, but Judge Joel Novak cut it to 18 percent. The final award works out to about $660 an hour for everyone involved — lawyers, clerks, secretaries, and the like. Novak also awarded the lawyers about $520,000 for out-of-pocket expenses. The mechanism for refunding the contested fees to property owners hasn’t been worked out, but the refunds probably will be around $300 per household.

The lawyers did not appeal the ruling that the city did not have to pay back-interest on the fees that were collected illegally — that interest runs only from the day of the court decision. “So instead of seeking an additional $11 million for the class, the class attorneys are seeking to take an additional $8 million from the class,” said an Iowa lawyer who has been closely following the case. …

Iowa workers’ comp boss Chris Godfrey will get his day — or at least his evening — in Iowa Supreme Court on March 4. The court has set the unusual time of 7 p.m. that evening for arguments in one aspect of his discrimination, defamation and extortion suit against the state and Gov. Terry Branstad.

As Cityview has regularly reported, the Branstad administration doesn’t like Godfrey for some reason — though surely not because he’s the only openly gay department head in its administration — and has been trying to get rid of him for three years, even though he has a fixed term and was twice overwhelmingly confirmed for the job by the Iowa Senate. When he refused to resign, the Branstad folks cut his pay to $73,500 a year from $112,000. So Godfrey sued. He is represented by Roxanne Conlin, who once ran against (and lost to) Branstad.

The state hired LaMarca and Landry to defend it — at rates of up to $325 an hour — and so far has spent close to $500,000 trying to get rid of Godfrey. His suit is in Polk County District Court, but it’s on hold while the Supreme Court looks at one central issue. That’s what the March 4 hearing is all about; after that, no matter who wins that point, the case goes back to district court, and the lawyers’ meters will start ticking even faster. …

No good deed goes unpunished:

In October, the Terrace Hill Society Foundation sued Holmes Automotive Group, which had lent the foundation two golf carts for shuttling guests at a 2012 Halloween fundraiser (“Scare-Us Hill”) at the Governor’s mansion. One of those shuttled was Ellen Hubbell — wife of former foundation president Jim Hubbell — and she fell out of one of the carts and was injured. In June, she and her husband sued the foundation, alleging the seat on the golf cart was not fastened.

In the suit, Ellen Hubbell alleges damages including past and future medical expenses, past and future physical and mental pain and suffering, and past and future loss of full function of mind and body. Jim Hubbell alleges “loss of consortium of his wife…including…the loss of her company, cooperation, affection, aid general usefulness, industry and attention within the home and family.”

But the foundation says if Ellen Hubbell was injured, it’s not the foundation’s fault. The donated golf carts were in an unspecified “unsafe condition,” the foundation says, and that “was a proximate cause of the injuries and damages sustained” by the Hubbells. So if anyone should pay the Hubbells, it’s Holmes, the foundation says.

On the day after Christmas, Holmes responded: It wasn’t our fault, Holmes says. It was the Hubbells’ fault. Or the foundation’s. Or “other parties.” What’s more, it denies there was anything wrong with the golf carts. Finally, Holmes says that the foundation “failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Lawyers for the Hubbells and the foundation now have served Holmes with requests for documents and other stuff.

Polk County District Judge Richard Blane has set a jury trial for next Oct. 13. …

Des Moines Register publisher Rick Green this week is bringing in a candidate to succeed him as editor -— though his note to the staff doesn’t use that word. It describes the job as “our top content/all-platforms position.” The candidate is Amalie Nash, the assistant managing editor for local news at the Detroit Free Press. The Free Press, like the Register, is owned by Gannett. …

Meridith (Jan) Baer’s website reports that her television show “Staged to Perfection” has been renewed and a second season will be announced soon on HGTV. Baer, the 1964 homecoming queen at Des Moines Roosevelt high school, owns the nation’s largest collection of luxury furniture (100,000 square feet). She stages upscale houses for resale and provides furnishings for movie sets. …

Branstad job watch: Iowa’s nonfarm employment was 1,548,800 in November, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. The total is up a bit more than 50,000 since Branstad took office three years ago. At the time, he promised to create 200,000 new jobs in five years. …

From the blog of Iowa City’s John Deeth:

“Can’t wait for the debates [if Secretary of State Matt Schultz decides to run for Congress]: ‘Mr. Schultz, explain your position on the farm bill.’ ‘Voter ID.’ ‘Should we intervene in Syria?’ …

Cityview reported last Monday that Des Moines City Manager Rick Clark would retire later this year. The Des Moines Register followed on its website, and dutifully — if a little grudgingly — reported that “Clark’s departure was first reported by CityView (sic) in an unattributed report on the Des Moines weekly newspaper’s website.” (Unattributed, yes, but accurate.) The story in Tuesday’s print edition somehow dropped that line. But perhaps the space was needed to squeeze in those 7 or 8 pages on the death of Johnny Orr — seven or eight pages of stories that somehow failed to report how or where he died. Oh well. CV

COMMENT: TOM MILLER

Attorney General Tom Miller takes issue with Cityview for a 150-word item here two weeks ago implying he was less than a champion of gay rights in Iowa. In a 542-word response, he defended his record. Among other things, he noted that in February of last year his office joined a “friend of the court” brief in arguing that California’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. What he didn’t note was that he filed no such brief when the issue came up in Iowa, the state where he is attorney general.

Tom MillerHe correctly challenged Cityview for saying his website listed “no results” for searches of the terms “same sex marriage” and “gay marriage.” On rechecking this week, we found the website lists “no results” only for the latter search. A search of the term “same sex marriage” on the Attorney General’s website yielded two links to an April 2009 press release — made after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in the Varnum case.

He says he “publicly supported the 2009 Varnum decision” — but he doesn’t say “after the fact.” He also notes, correctly, that Cityview said he sued to block a married lesbian from getting her name on her daughter’s birth-certificate. In fact, he says, “I did not file a lawsuit — my office defended a lawsuit brought against a state agency.” True, but the lawsuit — filed by my daughter — was brought because Miller’s office advised the Iowa Department of Public Health that, despite Varnum, a married gay woman must adopt her own child if she wants her name on the birth certificate. And when the Attorney General’s office lost in district court, he appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. (He lost again.)

The Attorney General says “CityView (sic)…uses a false narrative that, until just now, I’ve been ‘noticeably silent’ on issues important to the LGBT community. To the contrary, my words and my actions have been loud and clear.”

Indeed they have.

— Michael Gartner

Jokers