Friday, August 12, 2022

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Civic Skinny

Kay Runge keeps Mark Braun off committee;


The board of Iowa Public Radio has named a three-person search committee to find a replacement for the ousted Mary Grace Herrington. Doug West chairs it, and Warren Madden and Steve Firman serve on it. Board chair Kay Runge appointed herself as an ex officio member, which, as she noted in an email to West, “takes care of woman issue.”

The University of Iowa’s Mark Braun, who periodically counseled procedural caution as the seven-person board stumbled through the firing of Herrington, is not on it. There were several back-and-forth emails between Runge and West about whom to appoint — West volunteered and Runge quickly asked him to chair it — and the discussion centered on Madden and Firman and UNI provost Gloria Gibson. The name of longtime board member Art Neu was never mentioned, but Braun’s name was.

“I will NOT appoint Mark,” Runge emailed West on April 13. And two days later, amidst talk of picking Madden (of Iowa State, home to WOI) and Gibson (of the University of Northern Iowa, home to KUNI), but not Braun (of the University of Iowa, home to WSUI), Runge wrote: “Not two station (representatives). Too obvious not Mark.”

And this: “OK, will ask them Gloria will be station back up if Warren says no. Not asking Mark.”

One other thing: The new boss will carry the title of Executive Director of Iowa Public Radio. Herrington’s title was chief executive officer. There must be some meaning in that somewhere. …

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Besides being kind of odd, that lawsuit that former Des Moines school superintendent Nancy Sebring filed against the Des Moines school district and Teree Caldwell-Johnson, Phil Roeder and Patricia Lantz is kind of odd. The first kind-of-odd: Sebring doesn’t deny writing any of those sexy emails to her married lover on her school email account; she just says they’re nobody’s business, that Caldwell-Johnson, Roeder and Lantz “wrongfully undertook steps to ensure the purely personal and private emails would come to the attention of The Des Moines Register and to the public.” It’s all their fault that her bizarre behavior — on her company email account — cost her her job.

The second kind-of odd: The suit says the lawyer for the Omaha district, which had just hired her as superintendent, told her the district “did not care about her private personal life” after Sebring told her about “the purely personal and private e-mails that had been discovered by the District.” But when those emails became public, the Omaha board definitely cared — and canceled the appointment. The Omaha policy: We don’t care about your private life — unless somebody finds out about it.

One other nugget from the 22-page suit filed in Polk County District Court: Sebring alleges that a draft statement from Caldwell-Johnson — a statement that was sort of the fuse for the resulting stories in the Omaha and Des Moines papers — was leaked “directly or indirectly” to “someone with the Omaha School District” by Caldwell-Johnson.

At any rate, the suit says the upshot is that Sebring “cannot obtain a leadership position with any educational employer — anywhere.” That proves true what Cityview wrote at the time: that Sebring would have better luck getting a date than a job. …

Almost every Polk County employee got a raise on July 1. Gregory Schmunk, the county medical examiner, remains by far the highest-paid county employee with a salary of $226,635, up about $8,000 from what he was making two years ago.

Eighty-nine of the 1,446 fulltime employees now earn more than $100,000 a year; two years ago, the county had 1,217 fulltime employees, and 69 of those made more than $100,000.

The five supervisors themselves are pretty far down on the pay list. Until this year, they made less than $100,000 a year, but now the five — Bob Brownell, Angela Connolly, Tom Hockensmith, John Mauro and Steve Van Oort — make $101,668. That’s a lot less than the $165,286 paid to David Jones, the county administrator, considerably less than the $118,104 paid to Deb Anderson, the budget officer, and a bit less than the $102,352 paid Sue Elliott, the project manager, and Bob Cataldo, the risk manager.

The bosses make less than some workers in other departments, too. County Treasurer Mary Maloney earns $102,163, but Ben Lacey, whose title is “director,” makes $107,600. County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald makes $102,163 now, making him only the fifth highest-paid person in his department. The highest paid: Keith Olson, the central accounting manager, who earns $129,947.

But most of the higher-paid employees work for County Attorney John Sarcone, who now makes $175,373, up from $166,926 two years ago. Thirty-nine others in the 104-person department also make more than $100,000. Six deputies — Daniel Voogt, Frank Severino, Michael O’Meara, Jeffrey Noble, Nan Horvat and Steve Foritano — earn nearly $150,000. …

There must have been some high-level politicking to get Terry Branstad to veto the bill that would have moved a bunch of state employees into John Ruan’s Ruan Two building downtown, or else there was a massive screwup in his office. Last we checked, both Ruan and Branstad were Republicans, and a deal seemed set to move up to 600 people out of the Wallace Building and into Ruan’s building. The Legislature approved it, and so did Mike Carroll, who runs the Department of Administrative Services.

Now, it appears that only the state insurance division will be moving into Ruan 2, which was vacated a couple of years ago when Wellmark built its own building downtown. At any rate, one guy who keeps an eye on things said don’t be surprised if the state decides eventually to rent some space in a building owned by Jim Cownie (Republican) and Bill Knapp (Democrat) up near the convention center.

Real estate may be about location, location, location. But in Polk County, politics, politics, politics isn’t far behind. …

Barry and Michele Griswell sold their West Des Moines home last month for $825,000 to Robert and Kari Burns. The 3,912-square-foot house, at 605 Grand Oaks Drive, has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, three fireplaces, a swimming pool and a whirlpool. It sits on 1.7 acres and is assessed at $667,900.

The highest sale-price for a house in the Des Moines city limits so far this year was the $800,000 that Anita and Randall Norian paid to Joseph Quinn for a 4,296-square-foot, four-bedroom home on 1.1 acres at 9 Greenwood Terrace, a cul de sac with four homes just off 51st Street south of Grand. The house was assessed at $714,500.

Job watch: Nonfarm employment in the state now stands at 1,544,700, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. That’s up 56,600 since Terry Branstad took office 2.5 years ago. At the time, he promised he would create 200,000 jobs in five years. At this rate, he’ll fall about 85,000 short. Also, the agency reported that since June 2010, “Iowa’s percent of U.S. employment has declined as the percentage growth in U.S. employment has exceeded the percentage growth in Iowa employment.” …

It’s too bad that Sebring, who spends a lot of time in Colorado, never picked up a copy of the Aspen Daily News. There on the front page is its motto: “If you don’t want it printed, don’t let it happen.” CV

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