Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Civic Skinny

Beleaguered Blunck sued by his own lawyers. Who backed the winner in GOP’s face-off?

7/2/2014

The state of Iowa isn’t the only one having trouble collecting from wealthy architect but careless — if that’s the right word — landlord and businessman Kirk Blunck.

His own lawyers have sued him.

The Finley law firm went to district court last month saying that from 2006 through 2009 they provided “good and valuable legal services to Kirk Blunck in his capacity as a licensed architect in connection with multiple lawsuits, claims, and other legal matters.”

But Blunck hasn’t paid up, the lawsuit alleges.

The suit, which was personally served on the 60-year-old Blunck at his Waterbury Road home on June 13, seeks damages of $24,454.68, plus interest. Blunck had agreed to pay $1,681.60 a month, the suit says, but it says he has paid nothing since Aug. 17, 2012.

DM Art Center

Court records indicate Blunck has been sued at least 25 times over the years, and the Finley suit says the law firm represented him in actions involving the Des Moines Public Library Board of Trustees, Dornicks Design, Sheilah McKenna, Alvine & Associates, Assassi, Logsdon and Schaffer’s Bridal.

The firm says it “submitted bills and invoices…but Defendant refuses to make such payment.”

The case has been assigned to Judge Scott Rosenberg.

About a dozen of the suits against Blunck were filed in small-claims court. One example: Last fall, Fish Window Cleaning sued Blunck and the Des Moines Art Center for $343.44. The Art Center apparently paid the bill. Small-claims plaintiffs have included Schaal Heating, M.D. Eggers Construction, Action Electric Contracting, Speck USA, One Iowa, Lint Van Lines and Midland Funding. The Midland Funding case apparently concerned a $1,389.98 credit-card bill; court records say that Blunck failed to show up in court and that earlier this year a garnishment for $1,588.04 was placed on a Blunck account at Iowa State Bank.

Blunck made headlines earlier this month when the city ordered him to vacate the Navarre, a Sherman Hill apartment house that he owns and that is in disrepair. Last week, The Des Moines Register reported that he owes the city more than $1 million on loans it gave him to help restore two East Village buildings. The loans were due five years ago.

Blunck and his wife own a 96-year-old, five-bedroom home at 5223 Waterbury Road that is assessed at $631,300. He apparently doesn’t pay close attention to detail: He has been late paying his property taxes on nine of the last 10 bills, according to records on the website of the Polk County Assessor. …

Who backed winner David Young in the Third District Republican sweepstakes? Who backed the losers?

Young, who finished fifth in the June primary, was the darkhorse winner in the six-way race at the Republican convention, and a couple of local families were with him all the way.

The family of Dick Levitt — never known as big contributors to politicians — signed on early. Levitt, who took his family’s Dial Finance and built it into the mammoth Wells Fargo Financial, gave $5,200, the maximum allowed. He wrote the first check in August of 2013, when Young was still looking at running for the Senate and before most Iowans even knew who he was.

Levitt’s wife, Jeanne, gave $2,600, and his three sons — Randy and Mark of Bethesda, Maryland, and Jay of LaJolla, California — also wrote checks for $2,600. According to federal records, Jay Levitt had never before contributed to a federal office-seeker.

One likely reason the Levitts were in Young’s camp: Young is the son of Dennis Young, a longtime top executive at Wells Fargo Financial.

Likewise, three Lambertis — as in Casey’s stores — wrote $2,600 checks. The three are Don Lamberti, Jeff Lamberti and Charlene Lamberti. One possible reason: Don Lamberti is a lifetime trustee of Buena Vista University, from which David Young graduated and which is closely associated with the Young family.

Young, who had been chief of staff to Sen. Charles Grassley, loaned his own campaign $250,000. If he beats Democrat Staci Appel this fall, he’ll probably be able to raise enough money to pay himself back without much effort.

State Senator Brad Zaun, who led through the first four ballots but lost in the fifth and final at the district convention, didn’t raise much money — just $103,162 between Jan. 1, 2013, and June 1, 2014 — but had a few big checks, according to the Federal Election Commission. Des Moines lawyer Chris Green was in for $2,600, as were Michael Krantz of Adventureland, Thomas Moreland of St. Jude Health (Katrina Moreland kicked in another $2,600) and both Gary and Barbara Reubel.

Monte Shaw, the third-place finisher who was viewed by many as the likely winner, didn’t get many big checks from the Des Moines area. Former Congressman Greg Ganske gave him $2,000, but no one else in area zip codes was in for more than $500. Shaw loaned his campaign $30,000.

Secretary of State Matt Schultz, whose early popularity waned after his watchdog image got shattered when it was discovered he was paying a big salary to a pal who had no duties, got a lot of big checks early this year. Gary Kirke and Denny Elwell were in for $5,200 each, and Scott Doll gave $5,000. Givers of $2,600 included Mark Oman, Bob Pulver, Debra Pulver, Bruce Rastetter, Candy Elwell, Bill Kimberley, and Nick Ryan. Carl Moyer tossed in $2,000.

Unlike Zaun, who can continue in the Iowa senate for another two years, Schultz is out of office at the end of this year. He probably doesn’t have much of a state-wide political future.

Robert Cramer, who finished fifth, got big chunks of money this year from friends and colleagues in the construction-related businesses. Checks of $2,600 came from architect Michael Simonson, Absolute Concrete owner Sonny Hall, Manatt’s vice president Andrew Manatt, Doug McAninch, Kurt Rasmussen, Steve Sandquist, and Alan Sprinkle of Covenant Construction. Cramer loaned his own campaign $500,000, which he’s unlikely ever to get back.

Notably, Cramer got $2,600 from Bob Vander Plaats, the once-powerful far-right Republican in Iowa whose power is disappearing. It’s the only contribution Vander Plaats has directly made to a federal office-seeker in at least 15 years. He’s listed on Cramer’s forms as “Robert Plaats.”

Joe Grandanette didn’t report any receipts. …

The Census Bureau has released new population estimates for the towns and cities in Polk County, as of July of 2013. The county now has 451,677 people, up from 430,640 in 2010. The latest figure is almost 15 percent of the population of Iowa, which the Census Bureau estimates at $3,090,416.

For the first time, Ankeny now is estimated to have more than 50,000 people — 51,567, to be precise. In July of 2012, the figure was 49,080, and in 2010 the census was 45,582. That’s a 13.1 percent increase in three years.

Ankeny is the second biggest city in the county — since a chunk of West Des Moines lies in Dallas and Warren and Madison counties. According to the census estimate, West Des Moines has a total population of 61,255, with 48,120 of those folks living in Polk County, 13,093 in Dallas County, 41 in Warren County and 1 — one — in Madison County.

Des Moines clocked in with a population of 207,510, up from 203,433 in the 2010 census. Urbandale follows Ankeny and West Des Moines with 41,776, with 34,340 of those in Polk County. Johnston now has 19,798 people, Clive has 16,590 and Altoona has 15,653. No other town in the county has more than 10,000 residents. CV

Body Sense