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Civic Skinny

Is Blunck shopping some East Village holdings? Suit: Mom in Palo case ‘interfering’ in his career.

12/10/2014

Beleaguered property owner Kirk Blunck denies it, but developers say he is trying to sell some of his properties in the East Village. At least two downtown developers say they got calls from him last week asking if they might be interested in buying one or more of his holdings.

“That is not at all accurate,” he told Cityview. He is periodically approached by others, he said, but “I have not initiated any conversations to date.”

Blunck, an architect and an early investor in the East Village, has been less than an ideal landlord. His Locust Tap was closed by the city recently because of safety hazards, other buildings have had a list of violations, and he hasn’t paid back loans the city gave him to develop some buildings. He owns, among others, the Teachout Building and the Hohberger Building, both around East Fifth and Locust and both listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He works out of the Teachout Building.

He has been sued more than a score of times by tradesmen and others saying he owes them money. Earlier in the year, his former lawyers, the Finley law firm, sued for legal fees built up between 2006 and 2009. Blunck never showed up in court, and in September Judge Scott Rosenberg granted a default judgment against him for $24,454.68. In October, the court asked the sheriff to try to collect the money, and a garnishment notice was sent to West Bank. But the bank said he had no accounts there.

Last month, the firm asked the court to order Blunck to appear in court with tax returns, bank records, financial statements, books of his companies, a list of all assets and documents relating to his real-estate holdings. Rosenberg has scheduled that so-called “debtor examination” for this Friday.

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“All examinations and answers shall be on oath,” the order notes.

Meantime, Blunck and one-time partner James Bresnahan have settled their dispute involving the run-down Navarre apartment house in Sherman Hill. The dispute dates back two years, but two weeks ago the case was dismissed and Blunck paid Bresnahan $25,000 for “any and all interest that” Bresnahan had in the Navarre. …

Iowa Democrats have somehow convinced themselves that newly elected Congress members David Young and Rod Blum will be one-termers. Losing lieutenant-governor candidate Monica Vernon of Cedar Rapids is already gearing up to run against Blum, and party talk has it that former Gov. Chet Culver, state senator Matt McCoy, and former legislator Staci Appel, who lost to Young, all are looking at taking him on next time.

More and more Democrats think Andy McGuire will be elected state party chair next month. Scott Brennan has said he won’t seek re-election, and McGuire, Boone’s Jim Mowrer (who lost to Steve King in November) and Kurt Meyer of St. Ansgar all have shown interest in the job. …

If Gov. Terry Branstad wants to keep his pledge — or promise, or prediction, or whatever — of creating 200,000 jobs in five years, he’ll have to step up the pace as the fifth year begins. The state’s nonfarm employment totaled 1,576,000 in October, the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency reported the other day. In the governor’s nearly four years in office on this go-round, employment has risen about 85,000. That leaves 115,000 to go.

And while Iowa employment has been rising in recent years, it has been behind the U.S. growth rate since June 2010 — Branstad took office in January of 2011 — and Iowa’s percent of U.S. employment “currently is at its lowest level since April 2009.” …

Sports note:

Bubu Palo, the former Iowa State basketball player, now is playing with the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League. The team beat the Iowa Energy in Des Moines on Sunday afternoon. He’s having a pretty good season.

Social note:

He’s with the team despite the efforts of Grace Breshears who, according to papers filed the other day in Story County District Court, emailed the Legends people — and, apparently, the team’s sponsors — saying that Palo had raped her daughter, Hunter Elizabeth Breshears, and included “an incomplete copy” of a medical report that had been sealed by the court.

Legal note:

Because of that email, Palo has amended his lawsuit against mother and daughter. Besides alleging defamation, emotional injury and abuse of process, Palo now also alleges three counts of contract interference. Grace Breshears “sought to have Palo’s contract and employment with the Texas Legends terminated,” according to the new court filing.

Background note:

Palo and Hunter Elizabeth Breshears were friendly at Ames High School and ISU, friendly enough to sleep with one another on occasion. After one such occasion — on May 18, 2012 — Breshears said Palo raped her. Charges were brought, but ultimately it was determined that the main piece of evidence — a torn blouse — was tampered with while in possession of the Breshearses, and the Story County attorney dropped the charges. The university did not drop its allegations that he violated the student conduct code, but an administrative law judge ruled against the university. The university appealed, and a district court judge again ruled against the university. The university now has appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Palo graduated from Iowa State in May with a degree in finance and a grade point above 3.0. Because of the rape allegations, he was kicked off the team, and when he graduated he still had a year of eligibility left. At least two schools rejected him, though, even though the criminal charges were dropped and every judge who looked at the university’s allegations had sided with Palo.

The Supreme Court has not yet acted on the university’s appeal on the student-code issue. A jury trial has been set for next Sept. 22 in Palo’s suit against mother and daughter. …

Twenty-three months after Greg W. Landry retired from the LaMarca & Landry law firm, George LaMarca has changed the name of the firm to the LaMarca Law Group. The change was made “to better reflect the stalwart contributions of all attorneys and the retirement” of Landry, a firm ad says. The stalwartness of the other lawyers is recognized by not naming them, apparently. CV

Comment: The Rest of the Story 

Iowa Public Radio issued a press release last week saying — quite accurately — that the Polk County District Court had released a “highly redacted transcript” of a closed meeting that I had challenged as being illegal.

It further said — and I hope this is accurate — that “Iowa Public Radio is committed to open meetings.”

It further said — and time will tell about this — that the “Iowa Public Radio Board accepts the Arbitrator’s and the Judge’s decision, and will learn from this experience.”

What it didn’t say was what the arbitrator’s and the judge’s decisions were.

Arbitrator Michael Streit, a former justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, and District Judge Larry McLellan concurred, that:

1. At a closed meeting on Oct. 30, 2013, the IPR board “completed its executive director search, selected the new executive director, designated a board member to negotiate an agreement with the executive director, delegated power to that board member to negotiate and/or sign an agreement with the executive director and set employment terms for the next executive director.” The unredacted portions of the transcript confirm this. The arbitrator and court actions confirmed that these events behind closed doors exceeded what the open-meetings statute allows.

2. And, since earlier court orders relating to closed sessions by the IPR directors at the time they fired Mary Grace Herrington said the board had to follow the Iowa Open Meetings Law, the actions at the October meeting where Myrna Johnson was hired as Herrington’s replacement constitute yet another failure to comply with the law.

Because IPR once again didn’t follow the law, at the request of IPR and me the judge restarted the clock on the five-year injunction placed against the agency after the first two violations that were the subject of my prior lawsuits. The court ordered that for the next five years IPR is subject to the Iowa Open Meeting Law and that anyone could bring a suit alleging violations (previously, only Cityview and I could bring such a suit). The court included the board’s three replacement directors — including Chairwoman Mary Kramer — as bound by the agreement, and it ordered IPR to pay an amount toward my legal fees, which will be the greater of $7,500 or whatever IPR has paid to the Ahlers law firm to defend the suit and to cover the arbitrator’s fees. (IPR paid me $35,505 in legal fees after the first set of lawsuits.)

The two-paragraph press release said the “meeting criticized by Mr. Gartner, at which we considered candidates for Executive Director of Iowa Public Radio, was held with our attorney in attendance, using a process that we understand others have also used in recent hires.”

Other than throwing its lawyer under the bus, that statement is beside the point. Public agencies are not supposed to follow what other agencies do, they’re supposed to follow the law. CV

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