Tuesday, May 11, 2021

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Civic Skinny

Tirrell misses first payment in Gabus settlement deal.


Marty Tirrell’s settlement deal with Charles Gabus Motors lasted about a month.

At the end of November, Tirrell and Gabus told the Bankruptcy Court that Tirrell had agreed to pay Gabus $45,000 to settle a $72,000 claim it had against the blustery radio sportscaster. If Tirrell made his payments, Gabus told the court, it would drop its objection to his petition seeking to use the bankruptcy laws to get out of the hundreds of thousands of dollars of debts he had piled up.

The first payment, of $10,000, was due Jan. 3.

He missed it.

So on January 4, Gabus’s lawyer, Michael Mallaney, was back in federal bankruptcy court for the Southern District of Iowa asking the judge to deny the bankruptcy petition. “The debtor agreed to this remedy in the event he failed to make any of the agreed payments,” Mallaney told the court.

Prep Iowa

Gabus had objected to Tirrell’s bankruptcy petition, saying the sportscaster was hiding assets and not declaring some debts. It said Tirrell owed it $72,000 it had fronted him to bring football star Troy Aikman to town for a Toyota promotion. Terrell never made a deal with Aikman but kept the money, court documents said. And in depositions Tirrell also admitted he had hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt that he didn’t list on his bankruptcy petition, which had put his debts at around $650,000. The unlisted debts included $600,000 owed to Des Moines developer Richard Hurd.

Most of Tirrell’s big debts were to ticket brokers, who sold him blocks of tickets to major sporting events that he then gave or sold to listeners and advertisers on his sports-talk shows. But he often neglected to pay the brokers the hundreds of thousands of dollars he owed. Several received large court judgments against him but couldn’t collect.

But Gabus’ filing was the only objection to Tirrell’s bankruptcy petition, which followed an earlier bankruptcy petition that was dismissed because his debts exceeded the amount allowed under that particular filing. Under the settlement, Tirrell agreed to pay Gabus $45,000 in five installments by the middle of this year.

If he didn’t pay “each and every payment” on time, Tirrell and Gabus agreed that Gabus could file an “affidavit of default” asking the court not to allow the bankruptcy petition. That’s what happened, the new court filing says.

The agreement with Gabus didn’t sit well with at least one of Tirrell’s two ex-wives. “I’m disappointed that this got settled…and that there will be no trial,” Stephanie Gifford wrote on Facebook. “This trial could have been the beginning to expose and maybe stop the biggest con artist in Iowa….He’s a bully. He’s a fraud. He’s a liar.”

The trial had been scheduled for Dec. 9. No new trial date has been set.

Polk County records indicate the federal government still has liens of about $45,000 against Tirrell for nonpayment of income taxes in 2010, 2011 and 2012….

Meantime, Gabus and the YMCA appear to have settled their differences. Last summer, the Gabus Family Foundation sued the Y, asking for a refund of the money the foundation donated to help build a new Y in Grimes.

Gabus pledged $500,000, in annual payments of $50,000, and had given $300,000 by the time the plans were scrapped. The Y returned $161,881, according to court documents, but said the other $138,119 had been spent on “architectural design and development.”

The suit alleged breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment and conversion, among other things. A trial had been scheduled for next June. But Gene Gabus died after the suit was filed, and in November the parties asked Polk County District Court Judge Karen Romano to dismiss the proceeding. Asked if his clients got their money, lawyer Steven Shindler said, “I am sorry I cannot tell you anything about the Gabus v. YMCA litigation that was just concluded.” Presumably any settlement amount will become public when the foundation files its next tax return. …

Newspapers didn’t seem to notice, but shortly after the state’s voters decided that Mark Cady should serve another eight years on the supreme Court, his fellow justices re-elected him as Chief. He’ll serve until the next time he faces an up-or-down vote of the people, in 2024. …

Drake’s athletic woes continue to mount. In August, it lost its highly regarded director of the Drake Relays and its head track-and-field coach. In September it fired its long-time and popular trainer after his prostate ailment prompted him to pee into a whirlpool (which he then cleaned), and in December it parted ways with the coach of its struggling men’s basketball team in mid-season.

Now, Courtney Graham, who was fired as an assistant women’s basketball coach at Drake, has sued the university and Coach Jennie Baranczyk alleging she was fired after the coach and the school learned she was gay.

The suit was filed Dec. 23 in federal district court in Des Moines. Graham was hired in May of 2012 and fired three years later. During those three years, she “received consistent positive reviews, bonuses, a wage increase and promotion,” court papers say.

But in November of 2014, Graham “brought her girlfriend Kristal Flowers (now wife) to a home game and her status as a homosexual female became public knowledge [and Baranczyk] became aware of her sexual orientation.” That led to her ultimate dismissal, Graham alleges.

The suit alleges discrimination, retaliation, negligence, harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She is seeking back pay, medical and legal costs and other damages.

All of this is causing grumbling about Athletic Director Sandy Hatfield Clubb, who didn’t help her cause any when The Register reported that she told Trainer Scott Kerr that “he should have wet his pants instead, something that she had done when she was at an airport and could not visit a bathroom.” …

Brenna Bird, known as Brenna Findley when she was the on-staff lawyer for Gov. Terry Branstad and when she ran unsuccessfully for Attorney General in 2010, has been named county attorney in Fremont County in far southwest Iowa. She’ll serve for two years, filling an unexpired term. The job will give her courtroom experience in case she decides to take on Miller again in two years or in case she is tapped to be the new U.S. Attorney in Des Moines. …

Correction: In last month’s column, we said a plane that crashed in the East was piloted by William R. Lackey III, whom we identified as a brother of Miles Lackey of Iowa State. Miles Lackey has a brother named William in North Carolina, but he wasn’t the William who crashed the plane. The column apologizes to all Lackeys everywhere. …

Sabbaticals: Building a bicycle, grammar in Indonesia.

The Board of Regents the other day approved the sabbatical plans for 122 academics, most of whom will take off one semester with pay in the coming school year. Here are a few:

Kimberley Marra, professor of theatre arts at the University of Iowa, $102,100 a year.

“Professor Marra plans to complete the penultimate chapter of her book-in-progress [which] focuses on peak decades of reliance on horse power in New York City, 1860-1920, which coincide with the rise of Broadway’s golden age. Combining interdisciplinary methods of performance studies, American studies, and animal studies, she is analyzing several of the era’s plays and performances involving horses to examine the way cross-species interactions shaped modern senses of the body and related categories of race, class, gender, and sexuality. She will use this research to enrich her performance history classes in Theatre Arts and American Studies. Both the book and the video, which employs dynamic new media to show how urban humans had to develop greater corporeal awareness to work effectively with horses on stage and off, can prompt wider reflection — in the state and beyond — on what was lost in the transition to mechanical power that might benefit human and non-human species in our increasingly disembodied, denatured digital age.”

Steve McGuire, professor of art and art history at the University of Iowa, $107,500 a year.

“McGuire will create the project, Blue Dot – Building a Bicycle. This project is centered on building a bicycle, creating a video documentary of the building and use the bike, and exhibiting the bicycle and presenting the video at Penn State University in April 2018. The goal is to create a visual research project for teaching and for exhibition audiences. In January 2018, Professor McGuire will build the titanium bicycle, Blue Dot, recording the process. On January 27, he will participate in the Arrowhead 135 race and record the event with satellite tracking and video. In February and March 2018, he will edit the video and prepare the bicycle for exhibition at the North American Handmade Bike Show and at Penn State University in April. He will use the video for instruction in the new course, TDSN 3250, Bicycle Design and History. Professor McGuire’s proposal comes on the heels of expanding the School of Art and Art History’s curricular relationship with the College of Engineering and his courses TDSN:4250, Fabrication & Design: Hand-Built Bicycle and MTLS:4960:0002 Hand-Built Bicycle II being incorporated into the COE curriculum.”

William D. Davies, professor of linguistics at the University of Iowa, $131,100 a year.

“Davies will compile and begin writing a grammar of the language of the Baduy Dalam, a small group of 1100 people living in an isolated area of the Indonesian forest, whose language and culture are endangered. Working in Iowa and Indonesia, Professor Davies will identify grammatical forms in video recorded narrations being collected as part of a project to document the language and will begin drafting the grammar….Professor Davies will use his findings in his teaching and make them available online to other faculty and students and the general public….”

Glenn Ehrstine, associate professor of German, University of Iowa, $76,500 a year. 

“Ehrstine will complete a draft of his current book manuscript on ‘Devotional Spectatorship in Late Medieval Germany.’ The study examines how medieval audiences engaged the scenes of Christ’s passion in the era’s religious plays. In contrast to recent theories that the vivid portrayal of the crucifixion stoked spectators’ latent aggressions, Professor Ehrstine can directly link audience behavior to contemporary devotional practices, such as the adoption of “cross-form” prayer positions with outstretched arms….The completed book will allow Professor Ehrstine to better address the religious interests of students in the classroom. It will also enhance the standings of the Department of German, the Department of Religious Studies, and the UI Medieval Studies Program. The project serves the residents of Iowa and society in general by demonstrating that new discoveries and historic reinterpretations are possible by taking the religious motivations of the laity seriously.”

Paul Richard Bruski, associate professor of graphic design, Iowa State University, $76,816 a year.

“Bruski will use his proposed assignment to co-edit The State of Beer Culture, the first book to examine how the craft beer craze has changed the quality of beer, as well as its consumers, production, and image. In addition to co-editing the book, Bruski will also contribute an essay on how the concept of ‘place’ is used in craft beer visuals, including local landmarks and area codes. Insights from the project will also be incorporated into Bruski’s undergraduate and graduate teaching.”

Julia Dominguez, associate professor, world languages and cultures, Iowa State University, $82,636 a year.

“Dominguez will complete a book manuscript, Storying Memories in Don Quixote: Cervantes and Memory in Early Modern Spain, during her proposed assignment. The book examines the role of memory from the ancients to the great Renaissance thinkers to explore how theories and practice of memory make their way into Cervantes’ Spain. The project also helps educate ISU students to become global citizens, and will impact students in Dominguez’s classes and study abroad programs.”

Margaret La Ware, associate professor of English, Iowa State University, $79,122 a year. 

“La Ware will use her assignment to work on a book monograph, Speaking to America’s College Women: An Analysis of Commencement Speeches at Women’s Colleges from 1970-2000. La Ware’s work addresses the history and theory of commencement as a genre of speech, the history of women as speakers, and the characteristics of women’s speech. The project will benefit her teaching in courses dealing with gender and communication, and women in leadership, and inform universities in how they can make their institutions more inclusive.”

The universities say “a rigorous review process” was conducted to choose those selected for the sabbaticals.

And the folks who took sabbaticals in the 2015-2016 academic year have reported back.

Maria Jose Barbosa, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Iowa, “expanded her research and advanced the writing of the interdisciplinary book project, Women in/at Play in Brazilian Popular Culture, which addresses street festivals, a religion of African origin, a local martial art, and soccer….The process of authoring [a grant] proposal…helped her fine-tune ideas and expand the theoretical components of the project….”

Kembrew McLeod, a professor of communication studies at the University of Iowa, compiled his book, “Blondie’s Parallel Lines,” which “focused on the creative arts scenes that thrived in downtown New York City during the 1960s and 1970s….”

Christine Ogren, associate professor of education policy and leadership studies, made “significant progress on her project on the history of American schoolteachers’ summertime activities….She analyzed how teachers’ summer activities influenced their social-class status….”

Lauren Rabinovitz, professor of American Studies at the University of Iowa, “completed research for two chapters of a book manuscript, ‘Thrill Ride Cinema,’ that argues the amusement park novelty of motion simulation rides, wrap-around movies, and other movie ‘rides’ are an important multi-faceted mode of American cinema.” Rabinowitz “undertook a research trip to Orlando, Florida, where she examined several movies in situ at amusement parks….”

Mary Trachsel, associate professor of rhetoric at the University of Iowa, “conducted research and completed two chapters of her book in progress, ‘Other Animals in the Groves of Academe.’ …The book examines the history of nonhuman animal presence on the University of Iowa campus before exploring the input of rustic authority and experiential learning more broadly in zoological studies….”

Emily Godbey, associate professor of integrated studio arts at Iowa State University, “used her assignment to make substantial progress on a book detailing the history of the postcard in American culture.…”

And Jeremy Schraffenberger, associate professor of languages and literatures at the University of Northern Iowa, “worked on a collection of creative writing, ‘What Passes: Poems and Lyric essay of Memory and the Body’ that dwells on various shades of meaning of the word ‘pass,’ evoking and exploring what dies, what suffices, what we forget, specifically as it exists in our memories and bodies….”


Comment: Free speech at Iowa State 

Iowa State University President Steve Leath might want to sit down for a conversation with Robert Zimmer, the president of the University of Chicago.

Leath might learn a thing or two: About students, about ideas, about campuses, about freedom. Maybe even about how to run a university that is vibrant, a university where debate is robust, where ideas are argued, where the unpopular and the unpleasant and the unpalatable are discussed and dissected and disputed. Where students are challenged, not coddled.

Leath apparently wants none of that at Iowa State.

The ISU president has made it clear that Iowa State does not want students who don’t conform to his American ideal. ISU is “not the place” for students who believe “their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion or political views makes them superior to others,” he said in a short video address to students and posted by the university the day before the election.

The statement followed — of course — a line about how “here at Iowa State we recognize the First Amendment as an essential principle of education.”

It’s one thing to be against racism and sexism on campus, but it’s quite another to tell racists and sexists that they should enroll somewhere else. And it’s particularly absurd for a president of a public university to say that — absurd, but not unexpected. Iowa State, after all, is the university that the Governor says should speak only “with one voice” on all matters concerning agriculture.

Meantime, at the University of Chicago — a private institution that has no First Amendment obligations to its students — the dean of students this year sent a welcoming letter to incoming freshmen telling them Chicago is not a campus where “individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

Zimmer, the university president, followed with a piece in The Wall Street Journal talking about how free speech “is at risk at the very institution where it should be assured: the university.”

“Every attempt to legitimize silencing creates justification for others to restrain speech that they do not like in the future,” Zimmer wrote.

“Universities cannot be viewed as sanctuary for comfort but rather as a crucible for confronting ideas and thereby learning to make informed judgments in complex environments,” he continued. “Having one’s assumptions challenged and experiencing the discomfort that sometimes accompanies this process are intrinsic parts of an excellent education. Only then will students develop the skills necessary to build their own futures and contribute to society.”

Leath and Zimmer might want to get together to discuss this. Zimmer could come to Ames, where the two could get together in one of the university’s two “free speech” zones. Or Leath could fly to Chicago. ♦

— Michael Gartner

One Comment

  1. Diane Kolmer says:

    … and Leath should not fly back..

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