Thursday, January 27, 2022

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Civic Skinny

Who will make what in the city and county this year.


Ninety-two of the 1,191 full-time employees of Polk County will make $100,000 or more in the fiscal year that started July 1. And 102 of the 1,555 employees of the City of Des Moines will top $100,000.

The two highest paid: county medical examiner Gregory Schmunk, at $238,689, and city manager Scott Sanders, at $208,748, according to salary lists requested last week by Cityview. They are the only public employees earning more than $200,000 in the city and county.

In the county, 32 of the 42 highest-paid employees are lawyers with the county attorney’s office. John Sarcone, the county attorney, will make $184,700 this year, and six of his assistants will make $156,995 each. Right behind them is Sheriff Bill McCarthy, who will make $152,851. That’s just a bit less than the $154,351 Des Moines will pay Dana Wingert, the city’s new police chief. (The fire chief, John Tekippe, will make $143,208 this fiscal year.)

All nine of the county’s elected officials will earn more than $100,000 this year, though the five supervisors who run the county will make the least — $107,076.  Those five are Tom Hockensmith, Angela Connolly, Bob Brownell, Steve Van Oort and John Mauro. About 75 of their employees make more than they do.

Overall, most county workers got raises of 2.75 percent going into the fiscal year. Members of the Teamsters Union got 3 percent. In the city, workers got raises of 1.5 percent to 2.9 percent.


There is only one woman among the 20 highest-paid employees in the county — assistant county attorney Nan Horvat, at $156,995. The highest-paid woman on the city payroll is Deputy City Attorney Kathleen Vanderpool, at $156,921. She’s the sixth-highest paid city employee. The only other woman in the top 10 is Pam Cooksey, who became city engineer last year and who will earn $152,276 this year. …

John Pavone’s third attempt to get some of Gary Kirke’s money has failed. So he ends up one-for-three — though the “one” got him $10 million.

Pavone last month dismissed his appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court of the third attempt to be paid for a disputed management contract involving Kirke’s gambling casinos in Iowa, and the high court then in effect closed the books.

Polk County District Court Judge Karen Romano had ruled in Kirke’s favor in April. The disputes revolve around a consulting agreement Kirke and his casino company made with Pavone and his Sioux City-based management company in October of 2004. The deal called for Pavone to get the management contract for a casino in Ottumwa if Kirke got the license. It also called for Kirke to enter into “good faith negotiations” with Pavone to manage other casinos Kirke might get in the state.

Kirke didn’t get the Ottumwa deal, but in May of 2005 he got a license for a casino in Emmetsburg, and a year later he got a license for a casino in Clinton. Last year, Kirke got permission to put a casino in Jefferson. Pavone sued three times: The first was over the Emmetsburg casino, the second over Clinton, the third over Jefferson.

In the first case, a jury in 2007 awarded Pavone $10 million, saying Kirke had not negotiated with him in good faith. The Iowa Court of Appeals reversed that in 2009, but the Supreme Court reinstated it in 2011.

In the second case, a district court granted summary judgment, saying Pavone had already been paid for the breach of contract and couldn’t collect twice. He appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, which upheld the district court in ruling for Kirke.

In the third case, Pavone argued that the original consulting agreement still was in effect and that Kirke had once again breached it. Kirke again argued that he already had paid for the breach, and a person can’t collect twice (or three times) on the same claim. Pavone argued that Jefferson was not Emmetsburg, that this was a different deal. “It is clear that Pavone is asserting the same rights from the same contract against the same party as was previously litigated,” Romano noted, and then she ruled in Kirke’s favor.

Over the years, Kirke has employed some of the state’s highest-profile lawyers. He has been represented by former Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mark McCormick and current Justice Tom Waterman as well as former Iowa First Lady Mariclare Culver. In his latest victory, Kirke was represented by Frank Harty and Ryan Koopmans of the Nyemaster law firm. …

As expected, Danny Homan of AFSCME Monday sued Gov. Terry Branstad over the closing of the Clarinda and Mount Pleasant mental-health facilities. Some twenty legislators joined as plaintiffs. CV



Top county salaries

Gregory Schmunk, Medical examiner: $238,689

Mark Wandro, County manager: $194,840

John Sarcone, County attorney: $184,700


Top city salaries

Scott Sanders, City manager: $208,748

Jeff Lester, City attorney: $177,049

Carleton Metzger, Deputy city manager: $171,475

Lawrence McDowell, Deputy city attorney: $163,633

Larry Hulse, Assistant city manager: $161,803

Kathleen Vanderpool, Deputy city attorney: $156,921

Dana Wingert, Chief of police: $154,351

Pam Cooksey, City engineer: $152,276

John Newman, Info Tech director: $151,132

James Wells, Human Resources director: $151,091

Greg Heid, City librarian: $151,049


Comment: A sad story

Putting a face on Gov. Terry Branstad’s very bad decision to close the state’s mental-health facilities in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant:

James Dean Lamb is an unfortunate soul from southern Iowa who is mentally incompetent. He is 24 years old and has an IQ of 45. He had been living in a group home in the Des Moines area, and he has been in and out of trouble for a few years, first in Lee County and more recently in Polk County. The charges have included trespass, harassment and assault.

In May, he was arrested for first degree robbery, a felony, though a person familiar with the case says Lamb apparently waited around for the police to arrive after the robbery. He was sent to Polk County jail on May 28. The court ordered another competency hearing, and on June 18 District Judge Robert Hanson ruled again that Lamb was incompetent. The county attorney’s office did not contest that. He was sent back to the Polk County jail.

James Dean Lamb clearly does not belong in jail or prison.

A hearing was scheduled for July 2 “to explore possible placement” of Lamb. That hearing was before Judge Robert Blink.

Here is what he said:

“This case presents the real-life paradox that has been created by the Iowa Government’s approach toward mental health in this state. It is paradoxical now that a gentleman, not legally competent to stand trial, with clear mental-health issues, presents the Court with the option of selecting an intermediate step that may not be in absolute compliance with the law that the state legislature passed; puts the county attorney in the position of recommending that this gentleman simply remain jailed because her client, the State of Iowa, does not have adequate resources to allow the court to do what the law would direct. It is absolutely paradoxical.

“That being said, I am convinced that Mr. Lamb’s extended stay in the jail is not in his best interest. The question here is risk to the public.”

Judge Blink then determined that Lamb should be sent to state facilities in Glenwood or Woodward — so-called intermediate facilities that deal with Iowans with behavioral issues — a placement that would “reduce the risk to the public.” While Glenwood and Woodward are not prisons, neither are they mental-health hospitals — as Clarinda and Mount Pleasant are. Or were. Woodward or Glenwood “might be less than what this gentleman personally needs for his mental-health maintenance and his physical health. But in the long term, or at least in the intermediate term, it would provide protection to the public.”

“This difficulty,” Judge Blink continued, “is a direct result of the government’s failure, in this Court’s view, to address the significant mental health issues that we face as a society….”

Terry Branstad closed Clarinda and Mount Pleasant on June 30, and he vetoed operating funds for the facilities for the current fiscal year — funds agreed upon by the Republican-led House of Representative and the Democratic-led Iowa Senate.

Judge Blink never mentioned Terry Branstad.

He didn’t have to. CV

— Michael Gartner

One Comment

  1. Ray Sears says:

    If Michael Gartner is going to continue to steal column inches from the Civic Skinny feature, would you please provide him a whole page to pontificate about the people he knows, his infinite knowledge about everything, and his unsurpassed command of the English language. Trust me, there are more than enough items of interest that could be unveiled about local government so as to warrant an expansion of Skinny, rather than a lessening. As to Mr. Gartner’s own column, he should be given the opportunity to prove himself, After all, he has proven himself as an adequate writer and most of his past journalist pieces are readable, if not always interesting, to the masses of humanity who read Cityview..
    Ray Sears

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