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Civic Skinny

Bob Mahaffey won’t seek re-election to the city council.

2/16/2015

Bob Mahaffey is not going to seek re-election this fall to the Des Moines City Council.

His decision — which had not been made public until now — could set off a scramble for the northeast seat that the long-time Anderson-Erickson executive has filled for the past 12 years.

“I would be 85 at the end of the next term,” Mahaffey told Cityview. “I feel it’s time for a younger candidate.”

One younger candidate, 64-year-old Marty Mauk, already has announced. But when word gets out that Mahaffey has decided to step down, other candidates could step forward. Indeed, Monday morning Linda Westergaard, a neighborhood activist and vice chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustment,  announced her candidacy.  Westergaard, 62, has been a real-estate agent for the past 16 years and has lived in the Douglas Acres area for 37 years.

Mauk, who runs estate and antique auctions, is a past chairman of the zoning board and has been president of neighborhood associations. Lately, he has been attending the council’s morning workshops and evening sessions, and he is familiar with city issues. The Ward 2 seat runs from the Des Moines River east to the city limits and from University Avenue north to the city boundary.

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The city election is Nov. 3. Mayor Frank Cownie’s term also expires then, as do the terms of south-side councilman Joe Gatto and at-large council member Chris Coleman. …

Meantime, the Des Moines School Board is getting set to fill a vacancy in its District 2, where the ailing Toussaint Cheatom is stepping down. The district runs from Sherman Hill north to the city limits and west to 30th Street, and it includes North High School. The deadline for applying was Monday. The School Board is scheduled to meet Wednesday of this week to review the submissions; a candidate could be chosen next week and would serve until the school-board elections on Sept. 8.

As of Monday morning, PTA activists Thatcher Williams and Susan Griffiths had applied, along with Assistant Attorney General Nathan Blake, who last fall lost his bid for the state senate by just 17 votes. Ed Linebach, who lost to Cheatom in 2013, has said on Facebook that he is applying.

A majority of the seven school board seats will be up for grabs at that Sept. 8 election. Besides the District 2 seat, the seats of board chair Cindy Elsbernd and members Bill Howard and Pat Sweeney will be up. One seat is at large, and two are for districts — districts 1 and 3. But since the district system was just put in — the 1 and 3 districts will be electing members for the first time — it’s unclear who will run for what. Elsbernd and Sweeney both live in District 1, for example, and Howard lives in District 4, which is represented by Teree Caldwell-Johnson, who is not up for re-election until 2017….

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees represents more than 4,000 workers at the University of Iowa. Yet the proposed 21-person committee to be named to search for a new president of the University apparently will have no AFSCME representative on it.

The committee will include three members of the nine-member Board of Regents, nine faculty members, two representatives from the University of Iowa Foundation, two from the alumni association, two members of the public appointed by the Board of Regents, and the presidents of the university Staff Council, of the Student Government, and of the Graduate and Professional Student Government.

Initially, there was talk of putting a labor member on the committee, but that apparently was vetoed by either the governor’s office or the Board of Regents office. “There’s no fucking way” a union representative will be included, one insider said. AFSCME interprets that as “no.” …

If you’re waiting to get your 12 cents on the dollar from the money Marty Tirrell owes you, forget about it for now.

The proposed bankruptcy settlement of the radio sports guy and his wife was withdrawn after the bankruptcy trustee discovered the Tirrell debts were considerably greater than Tirrell had said. Ultimately, the trustee determined that the debts exceeded the $383,175 limit allowed under a Chapter 13 filing. At that point, both Tirrell and the trustee moved to withdraw the petition, which the judge allowed. The case was officially closed Dec. 29.

The Tirrells are barred from filing a petition under any chapter of the Bankruptcy Act for 180 days.

“Creditors are now free to pursue collection from” the Tirrells, a lawyer for the trustee told Cityview.

After the Tirrells filed their 12-cents-on-the-dollar plan, the trustee — Albert Warford — filed an objection. The Tirrells’ statement of financial affairs failed to answer many questions, and they didn’t document that all their tax returns have been filed for the past four years and didn’t supply documentation concerning their business interests, the court document states.

The Tirrells’ petition also didn’t accurately report on the court judgments against them from two ticket brokers who provided Tirrell tickets to major events but never were paid. Those judgments total about $287,000, but Tirrell had listed one as “unknown” and one as $33,000. The trustee report also says the Tirrells “failed to supply…information to document [their] projected income” and submitted proposed living expenses “which appear excessive.”

Charles Gabus Motors, the Toyota dealer that has had a long and bitter dispute with Tirrell, also objected to the proposed 12-cents-on-the-dollar plan. …

CoOportunity Health, Inc., was set up under the Affordable Care Act “for the mutual benefit of its members,” according to a petition filed in Iowa district court by the Attorney General’s office when it was clear the company was going belly up. Its federal funding was running out, and its claims were running up. It lost nearly $46 million in the first 10 months of 2014.

The state insurance commissioner, Nick Gerhart, says the company can’t be saved, and he has gone to Polk County District Court to ask that the company be liquidated. The company, which was licensed to do business in Iowa on March 22, 2013, is insolvent, court papers say, “and further attempts to rehabilitate CoOportunity would be futile.” Chief Judge Art Gamble has set a hearing on the liquidation request for next Tuesday.

The insurer had 65,000 or so customers in Iowa and Nebraska, and thousands of those will be hurt by the liquidation. They’ll have to scramble to find new insurance, and it might be a lot costlier. Many are high-risk customers.

But it was a good thing while it lasted — and among those benefiting were the officers of the company. According to state records, in 2013 — the year for which public figures are available — Cliff Gold, who ran the company, received a salary of $250,000 and other compensation of $24,000. Stephen Ringlee, the chief financial officer, also earned $250,000. Controller Scott Geistkemper and vice presidents Lois Crilly and Danielle Slifka each earned $151,500, and Dexter Bodin, another vice president, made $150,000. Geistkemper had extra compensation of $15,502, Bodin of $9,148, Crilly of $7,276 and Slifka of $900. …

Jordan Creek Mall has sued the people who guaranteed the lease for Champps Restaurant, the once-popular but now-closed eatery at the mall.

In a filing last week in Dallas County District Court, the mall said two Minnesota companies and two individuals who guaranteed the lease owe the mall $677,258.99, and the suit says that if Jordan Creek can’t find a new tenant for the 10,143-square-foot restaurant the Minnesotans will owe $2,648,307.62 by the time the lease expires in 2019.

Champps signed the lease for the prime space on Dec. 31, 2003, and ultimately it was guaranteed by Wayne Belisle and Laurence Pipkin, according to the lawsuit. Belisle, at least, was a principal in Belwin L.L.C., which did business as Champps. By the time Champps closed, it was owned by a Kansas City company called F&H Acquisition Corp., which filed for protection under the bankruptcy laws late in 2013. Then, briefly, the restaurant was renamed Eighty-Six-d, but that, too, closed.

But no matter who owned the restaurant, the lease was guaranteed by Belisle and Pipkin, the suit says, and they should pay. CV

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