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Gabus wants its money back for a Y that wasn’t built. New claim against Blunck. Tirrell’s ex-wives speak out.



The Gabus Family Foundation — that’s Gabus, as in Gene Gabus and Gabus Motors — wants back the $300,000 it donated to build a new YMCA in Grimes. Plans for the Y were scuttled earlier this year after finances couldn’t be worked out, and the nine-acre site was sold for around $700,000 to Bill Knapp, who had donated it in the first place.

But the Y is willing to give back only about half of the money Gabus contributed, according to a suit filed a few weeks ago in Polk County District Court.

The lawsuit says Gabus was promised “that all monies donated would be returned if physical construction of the facility did not begin.” And, it notes, construction never started on the $17 million Y.

Earlier this year, the Y did return to Gabus $161,881, but it will return no more. The Y says the other $138,119 had been spent on “architectural design and development.” It denies it promised to repay the entire amount if ground was not broken, and it says there is no enforceable contract.

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The Gabus Foundation says that overall it pledged $500,000 for the Y, in annual payments of $50,000, and had made six payments before the plans were scrapped. The lawsuit alleges breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment and conversion, among other things. The foundation is asking for its money back and other damages, and its lawyers have requested a jury trial.

District Judge Karen Romano has scheduled a trial-setting conference for July 26. …

  Marty Tirrell’s latest bankruptcy dispute drags on — he is accused of hiding some assets — and his two ex-wives aren’t exactly rooting for the Des Moines sportscaster and serial loser in lawsuits accusing him of bilking folks out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

His first wife, Margaret Doneilo, who is known as Bunny and who was married to him from 1993 to 2008, has won a judgment against him in Massachusetts for non-payment of alimony. The divorce decree required him to pay her $1,000 a month, but he stopped paying a few years ago. And, she says, “he owes me much more than that.”

She doesn’t look back fondly on the marriage.

“Because of him, I lost all my property,” she says. “He destroyed my life, and [the lives of] my kids and my mother. He took my future, my well-being.” She says he took out a mortgage on property she owned, and then defaulted. The property, in Massachusetts, was foreclosed on.

Tirrell’s second wife, Stephanie Gifford, tells much the same story. “I lost everything,” she says. “I cashed out my 401(k) and any savings I had [to help him]. That wasn’t enough. He ran up credit cards in my name without my knowledge and would lie about that.” She ended up declaring bankruptcy.

Both women say they knew nothing about his debts, his lawsuits, his business ethics when they were married to him. Gifford, who was married to Tirrell from December of 2010 to March of 2015, says she first learned about all the huge judgments against him and the foreclosure of their house when she saw it in Cityview. “He lied and lied and then would lie some more.”

“He’s such a good liar,” Doneilo agrees. “I was a trusting spouse….It took me a long time to believe” what actually was going on.

And both marvel at the lifestyle of a man with huge debts, continuing lawsuits and a challenged bankruptcy petition. He was recently in Massachusetts, Doneilo says, and “he was living large, staying at expensive hotels. I don’t know how he is getting away with all this.” (She says she hasn’t seen him since “he walked out of my mom’s house in March of 2007.”)

“Meanwhile, Marty is riding around in a brand new white Audi,” adds Gifford, “attending the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, the Masters, and going on extravagant sporting events about every weekend.”

The latest bankruptcy filing was last week. Charles Gabus Motors (that’s “Gabus,” as in lawsuit against the Y), which is owed $72,000 by Tirrell, is arguing in Federal Bankruptcy Court in Des Moines that he shouldn’t be allowed to escape his debts through bankruptcy. It also alleges — correctly, it seems — that his bankruptcy petition leaves out several big debts.

In the latest filings, both parties seem to agree that Tirrell’s debts far exceed those listed on the bankruptcy petition and they agree that in 2014 and early 2015 he deposited $600,000 into an account in the name of his then wife, Stephanie Tirrell, and that he “was aware that if bank accounts were opened in his name or jointly, those accounts could be subject to garnishment.”

The facts in dispute: Was Tirrell trying to “hinder, delay or defraud his creditors” by putting money outside their reach? And did he, in his bankruptcy petition, “fail to disclose significant creditors and other information required by [the law] and was this failure to make disclosures knowingly and intentionally done?”

The legal issue: Should the bankruptcy court allow the discharge of his debts?

Besides the Gabus judgment, Tirrell has lost huge judgments to Cumulus Broadcasting (a current and former employer) and ticket brokers in New York and Chicago. A $350,000 lawsuit against him by a Texas broadcaster is in abeyance while the bankruptcy proceeding moves on.

Tirrell has also acknowledged that he owes Des Moines real-estate developer Richard Hurd more than $600,000. All told, his debts seem to be more than $1 million, not counting the claim in the Texas lawsuit. And records indicate the federal government still has liens against him of nearly $45,000 for nonpayment of income taxes.

Tirrell, meanwhile, can be heard daily with his pal Ken Miller on radio station KBGG, at 1700 on the dial. …

Another large claim has been filed against the estate of Kirk Blunck, the architect who died in January in a fall — or a push, or a struggle, or something — in a stairway of the Teachout Building that he owned in the East Village.

The latest claim, for a minimum of $250,000, was filed by Jeffrey and Mary Lou Tyler, who had hired Blunck as architect and general contractor to remodel a large home they bought at 2814 Forest Drive for $375,000 when they moved to Des Moines from San Francisco in 2011.

Papers filed the other day in Polk County District Court allege that the Tylers paid Blunck more than $625,000 for construction and renovation and “at least $120,000…is unaccounted for” and wasn’t delivered to subcontractors who were supposed to get it.

They cite a litany of complaints: Work that didn’t meet code, a deck built on the wrong spot, cabinets that had to be replaced and reinstalled for an extra $50,000, electrical work that they had to pay to be redone, and payment for work that was never performed.

The claim — officially against Blunck’s widow, Doreen, as administrator of the estate — accuses Blunck of breach of contract, breach of warranty, unjust enrichment, conversion, misappropriation of funds, negligence and malpractice.

Lawyers for the estate recently told the court that Blunck had assets of about $6.4 million. So far, it faces claims and known debts approaching $2 million, mostly resulting from Blunck’s careless business practices — if careless is the right word. The total is likely to increase.

Blunck died when he stopped in to his building on Sunday, Jan. 24. The police investigated, but came to no conclusions. The medical examiner listed the cause of death as “multiple blunt force trauma, manner undetermined.” …

Culinary note: The poppy seed layer cake prepared by former Planned Parenthood boss Jill June won the best dish award at a recent potluck fund-raiser for Democratic Senate candidate Patty Judge. The prize: two tickets to Hamilton in New York.  At the box office, the best seats sell for $849; on the secondary market, they’re sometimes in the thousands. A bag of four pounds of Bob’s Red Mill Poppy Seeds costs $37.96 on Amazon. …

Jobs note: When Terry Branstad took office in his latest incarnation as governor, he promised he would create 200,000 new jobs for Iowans in five years. When he took office, the nonfarm employment in Iowa was 1,488,100. In May of this year, it was 1,597,000,according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

So he’s a little more than halfway there — with a net gain of 108,900 jobs.

Of course, five-and-a-half years have passed.

But who’s counting?

Not the governor. CV

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