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Civic Skinny

Ahlers law firm sues the estate of Kirk Blunck.


Kirk Blunck, the respected and embattled Des Moines architect who died mysteriously in the stairwell of his Teachout Building in the East Village on Jan. 24, left an estate valued at about $500,000, according to a document filed the other day in Polk County District Court. But debts and judgments will eat into that.

Why are these people smiling?

Why are these people smiling?

The office of Polk County Medical Examiner Gregory Schmunk told Cityview last week that it had not yet determined the cause of death of the 62-year-old Blunck. The matter is “pending.” Earlier, the examiner called the death “suspicious.” The Des Moines Police Department didn’t return repeated calls asking about the status of its investigation.

The first claim has already been filed against the estate. The Ahlers law firm says it is owed $21,650.83 by the estate, dating back to work done in 2011 in helping Blunck dissolve one corporation and set up another and also for defending him in one of the many lawsuits that had been filed against him.

Blunck was regularly sued by creditors, and when he died he had stopped paying on $682,500 in second mortgages held by the city of Des Moines on the Teachout and Hohberger buildings that he had renovated in the East Village. A city document said Des Moines was looking into suing him.

Prep Iowa

And as of Friday, the Bluncks’ $682,900 home on Waterbury Road still was under the shadow of a tax sale; the family has 18 months or so to buy it back for the unpaid taxes, which currently total about $25,000. The 2015 taxes were paid by something called Luxemberg Holdings LLC and the 2016 taxes by Forrest Holdings.

On Jan. 29, a Polk County district court judge appointed Blunck’s widow, Doreen, as administrator of the estate. …

The Marty Tirrell soap opera continues in federal bankruptcy court for the Southern District of Iowa. Several months ago, Charles Gabus Motors went to court arguing that the sportscaster should not be allowed to escape his debt through a bankruptcy. Gabus, which is owed $72,000 by Tirrell, alleges his bankruptcy petition leaves out several debts and has other misstatements.

A few days ago, the court told lawyers on both sides to have all their documents submitted by June 1. Tirrell and Gabus lawyers agree that these are the facts in dispute: Did Tirrell “cause to deposit funds of his own into bank accounts other than his own with intent to delay or defraud creditors?” And did Tirrell “fail to disclose significant creditors and other information required by his Schedules and Statement of Financial Affairs, and was this failure to make disclosures knowingly and intentionally done?” Among the debts not disclosed in the bankruptcy petition: $660,000 owed to Des Moines developer Richard Hurd. …

There has never been a United States Supreme Court Justice from Iowa — the two listed as Iowans moved to the state as adults — but that could change.  But not with the possible appointment of 8th Circuit Court Judge Jane Kelly, who is one of the two or three persons mentioned as possible nominees by President Barack Obama. Kelly was a federal public defender in Cedar Rapids from 1994 to 2013, when she was appointed to the bench (and unanimously confirmed), but she was raised in Indiana, educated at Duke and Harvard, and employed briefly in South Dakota before coming to Iowa.

But a person with deep Iowa roots is waiting in the wings, though it would take a series of pretty big “ifs” for him to get nominated and confirmed. The person is Circuit Judge Steve Colloton, an Iowan with strong legal and Republican credentials. Here are the ifs: If the Senate Republicans hold true to their promise and refuse to act on a nominee offered up by President Obama, and if the Democrats lose the White House in November, and if the Republicans keep control of the United States Senate, and if the new President believes he can get a strong conservative confirmed, then Colloton could be the choice.

Colloton, who just turned 53, was born and raised in Iowa City; his dad, John W. Colloton, ran the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for more than 20 years. He went to Princeton and then Yale Law School, clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, worked for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr in the Clinton/Whitewater/Lewinsky matters, practiced law briefly with the Belin firm and then was U.S. Attorney in Des Moines for a couple of years before being named to the Court of Appeals. He was confirmed by the Senate, 94 to 1. (Fritz Hollings of South Carolina voted no.)

The first justice listed as an Iowan was Samuel Freeman Miller — a doctor as well as a lawyer — but he was born and educated in Kentucky. He moved to Keokuk as an adult, probably because he was an abolitionist, and became a supporter of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln nominated him for a Supreme Court seat on July 16, 1862 — he was the first Justice from west of the Mississippi — and he was confirmed 30 minutes later. He served until 1890. He wrote a record 616 opinions.

The other “Iowan” on the court was Wiley Rutledge, and his connection to the state was brief. He also was born in Kentucky, and he lived in Wisconsin and Indiana and Colorado and Missouri before signing on as dean of the University of Iowa College of Law in 1935. He was appointed to the Appellate Court in Washington by Franklin Roosevelt in 1939, and in 1943 he became Roosevelt’s eighth and final appointment to the Supreme Court. He was known as the “conscience of the court,” and he served until his death in 1949 at age 55. …

Some friends of Chet Culver are lobbying hard to get him named head of the YMCA of Greater Des Moines, succeeding the ousted Vernon Delpesce. Jim Noyce is the interim chief executive of the financially pressed organization, and at least two people beside Culver — again, with political ties — are said to be applying. CV

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