Thursday, December 1, 2022

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Civic Skinny

An update on Marty Tirrell. Judicial performance and voter outreach. Veteran homelessness. Top home sales. And a historic conversation.


Marty Tirrell, the sports broadcaster and conman, is back in Des Moines, wearing an ankle bracelet while on “home confinement status” until his release date from the federal prison system in August of next year. According to a federal official, Tirrell is working at Sports Byline, a talk-radio sports network.  

Tirrell scammed friends and acquaintances — now former friends and former acquaintances — out of millions of dollars in various schemes, often involving the purchase of tickets to big-time sports events. In January of 2021, he was sentenced to a federal penitentiary in Minnesota to begin a 41-month sentence. The sentence has been reduced a bit. But when he is freed next August, he will be on supervised probation for three years.

It’s unlikely you’ll run into him on the street right away. Soon, he will be allowed to go to just three public places a day, according to a prison official, and he has a curfew of 9 p.m. He can’t take on any debt until he pays the restitution required by the court. That might take a while.

He owes about $1.5 million. …

The Iowa State Bar Association released the results of its biennial Judicial Performance Review conducted in September ahead of the general election. Across the state, 1,118 bar association members contributed in evaluating the 65 judges standing for retention in the election, with ratings from 1 to 5 evaluating professional competence and demeanor. Additionally, a retention percentage was provided for each judge based on attorney responses.

In the Iowa Supreme Court, 81% of participating attorneys voted to retain Justice Dana Oxley, while Justice Matthew McDermott received 77%. In the Iowa Court of Appeals, Judge Paul B. Ahlers received 89% “yes” votes and Judge Gina Badding 94%. And in District 5C covering Polk County, district court judges received the following retention percentages: Jeffrey D. Farrell, 94%; Robert B. Hanson, 99%; William P. Kelly, 97%; David Porter, 87%; Scott D. Rosenberg, 93%; Paul D. Scott, 95%; Jeanie K. Vaudt, 76%; Susan Cox, 92%; Cynthia Moisan, 50%; Brent Pattison, 100%; Jesse T. Ramirez, 100%; and Kimberly Rodgers Smith, 89%.

Attorney responses are anonymous. During the election, justices and judges who receive a majority of “yes” votes may serve another full term. …

In preparation for Election Day, approximately 47,000 eligible Iowans were mailed a postcard detailing the voter registration process — care of Iowa Secretary of State Paul D. Pate. The mailings are conducted annually and sent to those “who have an ID issued by the Iowa Department of Transportation that are not currently registered to vote,” according to an office spokesperson. The mailing cost taxpayers an estimated $9,400. …

As another Veterans Day rolls around, the VA Central Iowa Healthcare System (VACIHS) is calling on local landlords to help veterans through its homeless veterans program.

“Like many areas across the country, Polk County is experiencing a decrease in affordable housing and fewer landlords who accept Section 8 (a housing voucher program),” said Jennifer Miner, a supervisor for VACIHS’s homeless programs that assist 165 veteran households in Polk County.

Within the program — known as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) — HUD and VA collaborate to provide veterans with rental assistance vouchers and support services. Subsidies are determined by the tenant’s income.

In practice, Miner explained that renting to veterans provides multiple benefits to landlords, including reliable income (a portion of rent is automatically paid by a public housing authority), and a VA case management team providing a point-of-contact for any issues needing resolved.

A study in 2015 found that veterans are at greater risk of homelessness than non-veterans. Risk factors unique to veterans, Miner shared, include problematic military discharges, low military pay grade and social isolation after discharge.

An annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count conducted last January found approximately 145 veterans experiencing homelessness across Iowa, with 51 in Polk County. That number had fallen from 92 in Polk County in 2018.

“Between 2010 and 2020, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States was cut roughly in half,” Miner said. “Ending veteran homelessness continues to be a VA priority. To accomplish this, the VA needs partnerships with landlords who are interested in housing these veterans.”

Nationwide, the VA has established a goal to house 38,000 homeless veterans in 2022. …

The four highest-priced homes of the year in Polk County were sold in August, not including those sold between property management companies. 

The top sale rang in at $4 million when Alan and Cynthia Wells Revocable Trust sold their property at 12951, 12993 and 13021 Oak Brook Drive in Urbandale to James and Minerva Cord. James is CEO and Minerva a senior VP at JT Logistics. Their purchased property includes 4.7 acres of wooded area and a ranch home built in 2012, with 4,367 square feet of living space covering six bathrooms, four bedrooms and four fireplaces.

For $2.8 million, Jessica Snyder sold her home at 5725 Red Bud Way in West Des Moines to Atrium Capital Revocable Trust. Located in the gated golf community of Glen Oaks, the 14-room mansion includes six bedrooms and even more bathrooms, a five-car heated garage, a walk-in closet with a rack for 200 shoes, exercise room, game room, wet bar and a cooled wine room. Don’t forget the pool house, lighted tennis court and outdoor space complete with a bar, barbeque, fireplace and TV screens. Snyder was president and CEO of GuideOne Insurance, a role she left earlier this year.

Principal Financial Group’s new general counsel, Natalie Lamarque, purchased a $2.7-million home from Holly R. Smidt at 1738 S. 40th Court in West Des Moines. Living space covers 5,336 square feet that include seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms, kitchen with double islands, plus an outdoor kitchen and bar with ceiling heaters and firepit area.

And just barely missing the $2-million mark, Holly and Candice Melahoures spent $1.96 million for a property at 6009 N.E. Briarwood Drive in Ankeny. Holly is a doctor of osteopathy, specializing in internal medicine. The home was built in 2021 and sits on 0.675 acres with 3,870 square feet of living space, six bathrooms, six bedrooms, two fireplaces and a pool.

In all, 36 homes have sold for more than $1 million in Polk County in 2022. Other buyers include: Nathan Hulse, a VP at Trinity Health (which acquired MercyOne this year), who purchased a $1.56-million home at 6102 N.E. Briarwood Drive, Ankeny; David Briceno Gomez, a doctor of cardiology and electrophysiology, who spent $1.5 million on property at 6010 N.E. Terrace Ridge Drive, Ankeny; and Clinton Akerberg, a managing partner at The Wealth Consulting Group, who purchased 5315 Waterbury Road in Des Moines for $1.35 million.

Of all Polk County homes sold for more than $1 million in 2022, 13 were in West Des Moines, nine in Des Moines, eight in Ankeny, three in Johnston, and one each in Polk City, Urbandale and Grimes.

In Dallas County, 15 homes have sold at more than $1 million this year. The biggest sale was recorded in July, when Kari J. Cooling Revocable Trust paid Daryl and Amanda Johnson $1.9 million for 3818 144th St., Urbandale. The property, built in 2015, includes a two-story house with 4,849 square feet of living space, six bedrooms, five bathrooms, three gas fireplaces and a wet bar. Cooling is an executive with Holmes Murphy. 

In April, Christopher E. Malloy purchased a $1.6-million property at 31600 Silverado Lane in Waukee from Tercio Lopes, a gastroenterologist, and Lauma Dimpere, who also works in the health care field. The sprawling contemporary ranch, located in the Napa Valley neighborhood, includes 11,364 square feet with five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a wet bar, wine cellar, exercise room, two-level theater room, rooftop lookout area and a two-story fireplace on the patio.

The group of 16 different million-dollar homes sold in Dallas County breaks down to six in Waukee, three in West Des Moines, three in Urbandale, two in Clive and one in De Soto. Other notable buyers include: Jacob Jaacks, senior VP at Morgan Stanley and former Hawkeye/professional basketball player; Dave Van Steenis, CFO at ExchangeRight Real Estate, purchasing from Sanjeeb Khatua, former president and CEO of UnityPoint Clinic; Doug and Jana Van Polen, owners of Aveda Institute Des Moines; and Scott Kizer, chief legal officer at UnityPoint Health. ♦

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