Tuesday, August 9, 2022

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Civic Skinny

Tirrell’s secret to buying sports tickets: Don’t pay. Steve Deace doesn’t think much of Doug Gross.


How does the voluble Marty Tirrell pay for all those sports tickets that he gives to advertisers and listeners on his radio show?

He doesn’t.

He stiffs the sellers.

That’s clear from reading documents in two federal court cases decided in Chicago in recent weeks. In each case, a ticket broker sued Tirrell. In each case, Tirrell lost. One judgment was entered against him for $182,172.73, another for $107,665.

They come on top of a series of judgments against Tirrell, who doesn’t seem bothered by his financial woes as he continues his shows on “The Jock,” the Indianola-licensed sports station on 1490.

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Tirrell didn’t even dispute the larger judgment. In fact, he didn’t show up in court, the documents indicate. In the other, he simply sent the judge a 42-word letter. The key sentence: “We do not owe them any money.” The judge thought otherwise.

The $107,665 case — Profile Network, Inc. v. Marty Tirrell — lays out how Tirrell allegedly works. The complaint says Tirrell contacted the Illinois company to buy 36 tickets for each of the quarterfinals, semifinals and final games in the Big East basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 14-16 and a suite for 30 people at the NCAA Final Four tournament in Atlanta April 6-8.

Emails entered as exhibits in the case show that the company kept asking Tirrell for a down payment, but Tirrell apparently said he needed time to collect from his clients before he could wire the money. “We are acting in good faith here, and we expect the same from you,” one email to Tirrell said. Another email, from Tirrell, said, “I will invoice clients and settle up via wire as quickly as possible.”

But Profile Network never saw a nickel.

Profile sued in federal district court in Chicago on May 4 of last year. Tirrell appeared by telephone on Aug. 27 and sent his letter on Sept. 16. The court entered judgment on Nov. 1, and 12 days ago Profile went to district court in Dallas County — where Tirrell has been living — and got a decree ordering the Dallas County Sheriff to try to collect the $107,665.

“Try” is the operative word.

Details of the second case don’t appear in the record, for the case was simply an effort to collect a $160,000 note that Tirrell signed on March 27 of last year. In the note, Tirrell said he’d pay two weeks later — by April 9. He didn’t. The company sued on Nov. 29, and on Feb. 6, Judge Ronald Guzman of federal district court in Chicago entered judgment against Tirrell for the $160,000 note, for $17,597.73 accrued interest, for $4,110 in legal fees and for $465 in filing and service fees.

The plaintiff in that suit is First Hand Tickets Corp., a ticket broker based in Syosset, N.Y. Warren Schreiber, who runs the business, told Cityview he’d “prefer not to elaborate” on his dealings with Tirrell, but he’s clearly pissed. Tirrell “is a complicated individual,” Schreiber said. One broker who has dealt with Tirrell puts it less charitably: “He leaves a trail of devastation.”

The two judgments come on top of other financial woes Tirrell faces.

Cumulus Media, owner of “The Champ” station that used to air Tirrell’s show, won a $96,656 judgment against him not long ago.

Toyota of Des Moines has sued him for $90,000 or so. Toyota, part of the Gabus auto group, says it paid Tirrell to bring Troy Aikman to town to promote the dealership. Tirrell took the money, but didn’t produce Aikman, the lawsuit says.

And W West Investments and Tom Baldwin got a $30,000 judgment last year, which led earlier this month to a “notice of sheriff’s levy and sale” of Tirrell’s house on 75th Street in West Des Moines.

One other thing: Tirrell’s LinkedIn page suggests “contact Marty for…business deals.” …

Not that you would, but don’t sit Steve Deace next to Doug Gross when you have the guys over to the house. Here’s Deace on Gross the other day: “Again, [Republican Senate hopeful Mark] Jacobs is a Democrat running in a Republican primary, which explains why he’s supported by Doug Gross, who symbolizes the worst of what the Republican Party has to offer, in my view. Anything Gross is attached to is already rotten or soon will be.”

Asked for comment, Gross said: “While I generally try to consider all points of view, I have not made a habit of reading hate speech and don’t plan to start now.” …

There they go again: Last Tuesday, in a front-page story The Des Moines Register reported that the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter is in financial trouble. Surely, it meant to say “as first reported — a week ago — in Cityview.” Just an oversight, probably. CV


Comment: Tuesday’s Vote

Unless your name is David Maxwell or Angela Franklin, or unless you run one of the big hospitals or big churches in town, if you don’t vote “yes” in Tuesday’s election you’re, well…


The election is to allow the city of Des Moines to increase the tax it puts on your utility bills — the so-called franchise fee — to 7.5 percent from 5 percent. The increase will last until the city has raised around $42 million, the amount of costs, refunds, interest and lawyers’ fees it has to pay because it lost a lawsuit over the franchise fees tacked on your MidAmerican Energy bills since 2004. After the $42 million is raised, in about seven years, the tax will revert to 5 percent.

The lawsuit, a so-called class-action suit, alleged the city collected more money that it was entitled to. Under the law, the city could collect a fee equal to the cost of regulating the utilities. Over the years, the Des Moines fee exceeded that by about $40 million, the courts ruled. No one — politician, lawyer, accountant, regulator, administrator, clerk, custodian — has been held accountable for the mistake, of course.

The law has since been changed, and the 5 percent now is legal, irrespective of the cost of regulation. And the temporary 7.5 percent will be legal if voters approve.

So while you’re voting to increase the fee you pay on your utility bill, you’re also voting to give yourself a refund. To be sure, your refund will be but a fraction of your increased fee — the lawyers already have grabbed $7 million of the $40 million and want still more — but it will be something. If you vote “no” on Tuesday, you’ll still get your refund, but your price to get that refund will go up because you’ll also be subsidizing the refunds paid to Drake University and Des Moines University and the big downtown hospitals and the churches and all the other institutions in this city that don’t have to pay property taxes.

Because here’s the deal: The city has to pay back the $40 million whether voters increase the fee or not. If the vote is “no,” the city probably will have to raise property taxes. And since David Maxwell’s Drake University and Angela Franklin’s Des Moines University and the properties owned by churches and city and county and state and federal government — and lots of others — are tax exempt, they won’t have to pay anything to finance the refund. They’ll still get their refunds, of course, but at no cost.

No cost to them, that is. So maybe the people who run those institutions have a responsibility to do what’s best for their schools and churches.

Maybe they should vote “no.”

But you shouldn’t. For if the vote Tuesday is “no,” the cost of refunding those fees to the tax-exempt institutions will fall to you — to you if you’re a property owner, to you if you’re a renter because ultimately landlords will get their costs back from you, to you if you’re the owner of a factory or a barbershop or a tavern or any other property. You’ll be subsidizing all those folks who pay no property taxes.

That’s loopy.

And so are you — most of you, anyway — if you don’t vote “yes” on Tuesday. CV

— Michael Gartner

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