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Civic Skinny

Gabus Motors gets $72,500 judgment against Marty Tirrell.


This slipped through the cracks: Marty Tirrell has lost his fight against Charles Gabus Motors. In April, after a nonjury trial, Polk County District Judge Douglas Staskal ordered the beleaguered sports broadcaster to pay the auto dealer $72,034, plus interest and costs.

The issue was simple: Tirrell, who at the time was broadcasting his afternoon radio show from Gabus’ Toyota showroom, told Toyota he knew former football star Troy Aikman and could bring him to town to promote the dealership and speak at an “All Toyota of Des Moines Football Team” banquet.

Toyota paid him $72,500 plus another $6,784 for four first-class air tickets.

But Tirrell couldn’t deliver.

In fact, Tirrell “never came even remotely close to obtaining Aikman’s appearance,” the court ruled.

But, gosh, it wasn’t my fault, Tirrell said in last-minute court papers.

“Terrell’s position is that while he originally proposed” the idea of bringing in Aikman, Toyota’s then-general manager “Steve Luebke took the idea and ‘ran with it.’ ” But “Luebke unfortunately did not attend the trial because he is incarcerated due to multiple offenses of intoxicated driving.”

The court didn’t buy that.

The judgment raises to about $400,000 the amount of outstanding judgments against the blustery Tirrell for being paid to do things and then not doing them — and not returning the money.

One cautionary note: If you’re going to try to con someone by saying you can bring Troy Aikman to town, don’t turn in for airplane tickets. “Troy has his own plane and flies privately,” his agent said in a deposition.

And a neat maneuver they don’t teach in law school: The whole dispute started when Tirrell sued Gabus, claiming the dealership breached its contract to employ him and, second, that it obstructed “his ability to carry out” some promotional sports trips. In an earlier proceeding, the court threw out the first count. Toyota then purchased Tirrell’s second claim at a sheriff’s sale — he had declared bankruptcy, but that ultimately was dismissed — and Toyota then substituted itself as the plaintiff against itself and then moved to dismiss it. That worked.

It probably goes without saying, but for the record: Tirrell has not paid Gabus the $72,500. Nor has he paid the $120,000 owed Gabus from another court suit. That was a judgment won in federal court by a ticket broker in Chicago. Gabus bought the judgment for “a nominal sum” as part of its legal strategy, a Gabus lawyer says. “Collection attempts are ongoing,” he says. …

Some Republicans are talking about running a primary next year against Polk County Supervisor Steve Van Oort, the former Ankeny mayor who represents the northern part of the county and who is widely popular. Ideology — especially on social issues — rarely plays a role in county doings, but Van Oort apparently isn’t conservative enough for some.

Two things about that:

First, no matter who runs, the Democrats will still have a 3-2 majority, and that majority, probably, will last at least through this decade. Van Oort and fellow Republican Bob Brownell are in comfortably Republican districts — and Democrats Tom Hockensmith, Angela Connolly and John Mauro are in strong Democratic districts. Those districts won’t be redrawn until after the 2020 census. If Van Oort is the candidate, Democrats probably will come up with just a token candidate — if they come up with a candidate at all.

Second, Polk County still has a lot of Republicans who are moderate — in contrast, say, to those in Steve King’s Congressional district — and if Jack Whitver and Ed Failor Jr. find a conservative challenger who beats Van Oort (someone like Jack Whitver or Ed Failor Jr.) the Democrats could well field a candidate to stage a real race.

Van Oort’s district has 21,802 registered Republicans, 20,462 registered independents and 17,537 registered Democrats, according to Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald.

As of June 2, Polk County had 100,656 registered Democrats, 84,306 registered independents and 80,960 registered Republicans.

Meantime, Democrat Jim Mowrer has officially moved to Des Moines. Mowrer has owned a bungalow on Carpenter Avenue in Des Moines since 2007, but in 2013 he purchased a home in Boone and became a legal resident there. That’s where he was living when he ran his losing campaign last year against Fourth District Congressman Steve King. But last week he filed both Homestead Credit and Military Exemption applications with the Polk County Assessor, which makes him a Polk County resident. Polk County is in the Third Congressional District. Read what you will into all this, but it must mean something. …skinny 6.11

For those Luddites who read this column in print and not online: Jennifer Miller, The Des Moines Register’s food critic, resigned last week. She had written a story about “delicious” barbecue sauces she tasted at an event at Jethro’s barbecue. The problem: She didn’t attend the event.

Meantime, the Register’s “Juice” publication is in search of writers who, among other things, can “speak on buzzy topics” and “entertain and be sassy.” No mention that the sassy reporter must actually attend the events he or she writes about. …

“Equal Before the Law,” the book by Marc Hansen and Tom Witosky about the Varnum case and the aftermath that led to the defeat of three Iowa Supreme Court justices, came out last week. The day after publication, there were three used copies for sale on Amazon. One was described as “like new” and one as “with light amount of wear.” The third would be shipped from England.

As of Saturday, the book ranked number 97,767 on Amazon’s best-seller list. In contrast, “Outrage, Passion and Uncommon Sense,” the spectacularly interesting history of America as seen through newspaper editorials and written by Michael Gartner, ranked number 1,382,855. Used copies of that book are available for a penny on Amazon. Several “appear unread.” …

Job watch: Iowa’s non-farm employment totaled 1,572,000 in April, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. That’s up 73,000 since Terry Branstad began his second round of governorships four-and-a-half years ago. At the time, he promised he’d create 200,000 jobs in five years. He’s averaging 1,404 a month. If he keeps up that pace, he’ll miss his goal by seven years. …

In case you were wondering: Seventeen prisoners died while in custody in Iowa last fiscal year, one more than in each of the two prior years. Of the 17, one was murdered — the first prison murder in four years — and one died in an accident. The other 15 died from illnesses. There were no suicides; in fiscal 2013, there were three. As of this weekend, there were 8,267 inmates in Iowa’s prisons. That’s 13.6 percent over the capacity of 7,276. …

Jordan Hansell, the Des Moines lawyer who has been chief executive of Warren Buffett’s NetJets company in Columbus, Ohio, since 2011, is out. His leadership of the world’s largest operator of private jets was marked by economic woes and labor difficulties. Hansell left with NetJets’ “sincerest thanks and best wishes for his next endeavours.”

He was replaced by his former deputy, who had left the company just two months ago.

Hansell left NetJets last week. The day he left he signed on as executive chairman of QuickInsured, an insurance marketer in Columbus that was launched last year and in which he was a founding investor.

Before joining NetJets as general counsel in 2009, Hansell was for 10 years a lawyer at the Nyemaster firm in Des Moines, where his father, Ed, has been a longtime partner. Before that, Jordan Hansell was a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. …

Cityview joins those saddened by the death of Gene Maddox, lawyer, public servant, and genuinely nice man. The former legislator and one-time mayor of Clive died last week at age 76. CV

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