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IPIB to look at Atlantic & 5 other southwest Iowa cases this week


October 14th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa Public Information Board is expected to address six cases from southwest Iowa during its meeting later this week. The Daily NonPareil reports an agenda for the meeting, which will be held at 1-p.m. Thursday, in Des Moines, was released Monday afternoon. It shows recommended action for the following cases:

A complaint filed by Jeff Lundquist against the Atlantic City Council and Atlantic Mayor Dave Jones alleged an unlawful meeting was held to discuss the resignation of the City Administrator Doug Harris. An investigation by the IPIB, however, found no such meeting occurred.

In a letter to Lundquist, IPIB Executive Director Keith Luchtel wrote “Our investigation revealed that conversations among the mayor and some council members about the resignation of the city administrator did occur outside of a council meeting, but never when a quorum of the city council was present.”

Without enough members present to legally hold a vote, public bodies are not subject to open meeting requirements, even if they discuss business. Luchtel recommended the IPIB dismiss the complaint.

Three complaints against the Red Oak Community School District are expected to be resolved through negotiated remediation plans. The Red Oak school board has agreed to training and has acknowledged concerns about its handling of open meeting requirements in April and June.

Margaret Johnson, the deputy director of the IPIB, said in a report to the board that all three complainants – Jedd Sherman, Don Rogerson and Margaret Stoldorf – have agreed to the remediation plans approved by the school board. Johnson recommended the plans be accepted by the IPIB.

A complaint filed by Pacific Junction City Council member Earl Smith that alleges the council violated state open meetings laws during a closed session to acquire a $50,000 loan in November 2013. Smith has since indicated to the IPIB and the Iowa State Auditor’s Office that the loan – actually for $40,000 – was approved at the beginning of the meeting and a closed session centered around a different $50,000 debt.

Executive Director Keith Luchtel said in a letter to Smith, released as part of the IPIB agenda, that the council has “ongoing actions” that appear to be violations against Iowa Code, including “vague and non-descriptive agenda, votes on matters not on the agenda and deliberation on matters not on the agenda.” Luchtel recommended the IPIB accept the complaint, which would begin a process of resolving the case informally or gathering evidence to determine if probable cause of a violation can be found.

• And a complaint against the Fremont County Attorney’s Office was withdrawn by Rick Aultman, who told the board he has instead filed a formal records request with Fremont County Sheriff Kevin Aistrope.

Mills County man’s trial on kidnapping & child abuse delayed


October 14th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The trial for a Mills County man facing sexual abuse and other charges has been delayed, until the Iowa Supreme Court rules whether to uphold a felony kidnapping charge. The Daily NonPareil reports 67-year old Daniel Walden, of Glenwood, was arrested May 19th on suspicion of first-degree kidnapping, indecent contact with a child and two counts of second-degree sexual abuse. In Iowa, a first-degree kidnapping conviction carries an automatic life sentence.

Walden is accused of luring a child under age 12 into his home and committing sexual abuse. The incident – which occurred in spring or summer of 2006 or 2007 – was reported to police on May 5, according to court documents.

His attorneys said the kidnapping charge falls outside of Iowa’s state statutes of limitation of three years. Walden’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the charge on June 17, and the Mills County Attorney’s Office filed a motion June 19 to resist the dismissal. After Fourth District Judge James Richardson upheld the county’s motion July 7, Walden’s attorneys appealed. The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments in early August and has yet to issue a ruling.

The county attorney’s office argued the charges should be merged, according to documents, because “It makes little sense that the lesser included crime of sex abuse in the second degree would have a longer statute of limitation than the kidnapping first with the element of sex abuse.”

Walden bonded out of jail June 4th. A new court date has not been scheduled.

Snow plows may be on Iowa roads, but not because snow is on the way


October 14th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

There’s no snow in the forecast, but motorists may be seeing some Iowa Department of Transportation snow plows on roadways this week. The Iowa D-O-T’s Craig Bargfrede says crews are simply testing and calibrating equipment in preparation for winter.  “And because of the large amount of new seasonal operators that we’re bringing on board, the district offices have various new operator training courses scheduled for the coming weeks,” Bargfrede says.

The DOT announced plans in September to hire nearly double the number of amount of temporary snow plow operators this year compared to the last winter season. The agency is in the process of hiring around 600 snow plow drivers. “We started an online application process this year for those seasonal employees and so far, the response has been very, very positive,” Bargfrede says. Pay for the work ranges from $11.39 to $16.13 per hour. Bargfrede says the boost in employment should not suggest that Iowa’s in for an especially harsh winter.

“It’s more to help us augment our full-time staff to make sure we have enough people on the roads and give us the level of service that the public is looking for,” Bargfrede says. The first snowfall in Iowa normally arrives in November, but it’s not unusual for snow to fly in October.

(Radio Iowa)

Feds: Pilot dies in small plane crash in Dubuque


October 14th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — A federal official says the pilot of a single-engine plane has died in a crash near Dubuque Regional Airport. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford says the Piper PA-46 crashed around 11 p.m. Monday on approach to the airport, about a mile north of the runway.

Lunsford says law enforcement told him the sole occupant of the aircraft was killed in the crash but he has no other information. The Dubuque Police Department declined to comment to The Associated Press early Tuesday.

Lunsford says the plane took off from Ankeny Regional Airport about an hour before the crash. He says the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.

Iowa early News Headlines: Tue., Oct. 14th 2014


October 14th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Authorities are investigating the discovery of an unloaded handgun and a box of ammunition inside the backpack of a high school student in Iowa City. Iowa City police say officers arrived Friday at West High School following a report that a student had carried a gun on school property. A teacher reported to school officials that a student was showing signs of emotional distress. The gun was found in a backpack inside his locker.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Officials from African nations are among international dignitaries gathering for the annual World Food Prize award ceremony to discuss the challenges of feeding a growing world population. Ebola was not initially scheduled to be part of a three-day symposium that accompanies the award ceremony, but the attendance of prominent West African government officials prompted the inclusion of Ebola’s impact on food security in the program.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa woman has been accused of stealing about $30,000 from a pharmacy company where she worked. Clear Lake police say 29-year-old Abigail Roberts was arrested Sunday. She is charged with ongoing criminal conduct and first-degree theft. Authorities say a lengthy investigation revealed Roberts stole about $30,000 from Clear Lake Pharmacy while she worked as a pharmacy technician between 2012 and July.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — An infectious disease consultant for a regional health system says the infection of a Dallas nurse caring for an Ebola patient was a wake-up call for hospitals to be more prepared. Dr. Wendall Hoffman says Sanford Health has improved its ability to respond to the virus over the past couple of weeks by asking questions about patient travel and educating staff on personal protective equipment. Training drills are also in the works.

Continued rain wiped the drought out of Iowa

Ag/Outdoor, News, Weather

October 13th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The latest rains across Iowa continue to add to what is now a positive groundwater picture. Tim Hall, who tracks groundwater levels for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says we can officially put the word drought away for awhile when referring to the state’s water situation. Hall says it wasn’t that long ago when many were wondering if that would be possible. “I look back at the drought monitor from one year ago — from the middle of October last year — and it was really bleak about one year ago,” Hall says. “Most of the state was in some sort of drought, and it had sort of been lingering for a long time.”

Hall says things were dry going back even farther to the fall of 2011. “It’s nice now to get to the point where it appears that the long-term gradual moisture from this year has really pushed the drought out of the state. It’s nice to see. It’s been really wet going into the fall, this is what we like to see, so yeah, it’s in pretty good shape,” Hall says. The last remnants of the drought had hung on until September’s above normal rainfall.

“For awhile that northeastern corner of the state into southwest Wisconsin had been a little on the dry side — but we are out of it in Iowa right now. We’ve been out if for a month and it’s dramatically better than it was a year ago,” according to Hall. He says things seemed to balance out this spring, and the drier conditions actually helped prevent problems during a wet periods.

“The National Weather Service folks have pointed out that one of the things that really worked to the benefit of the state of Iowa this year given the spring rain, was that we did have very dry soil conditions back in the spring,” Hall says, “so, we were able to absorb a lot of the rainfall that came early in the spring season because the soil was so dry.”

The U-S-D-A National Agricultural Statistics Service says the subsoil moisture levels measured on October 5th had been greater only twice — in 2007 and 2010 — among the past 20 years.

(Radio Iowa)

Montgomery County official says Democrats ‘grasping at straws’ with conflict of interest allegation against Ernst


October 13th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

A county supervisor who voted to hire Culver Construction to work on county projects says everyone involved knew the business was owned by Joni Ernst’s father. Ernst is now the Iowa Republican Party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate, but Democrats have been suggesting that while Ernst was the Montgomery County Auditor she failed to disclose her father’s firm was bidding for and getting county business. Bryant Amos, the chair of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, says “everyone in the county” knew Culver Construction was owned by Ernst’s father.

“In a small community, that was common knowledge. I really feel that they’re really grasping at straws to find something negative here,” Amos says. “At that time, if there would have been anything at all that was not above the board and politically correct, we would have been put on the carpet right then.” Culver Construction was awarded 215-thousand dollars worth of county contracts when Ernst served as Montgomery County’s auditor. Democrats have charged that’s a conflict of interest. Amos says Ernst had no vote on the matter because he and the other county supervisors handled the bids and voted to award the contracts. Former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie Campbell — a former chair of the Iowa Democratic Party — last week said state law stipulates that a county official’s “immediate family members” — including their parents — are not to get county contracts. Amos says in a small county like Montgomery County, that could “cut out” a lot of potential low bidders on county contracts and cost taxpayers more money.

“Why would you refuse a low bid because there’s a relationship? I mean, how far does that relationship go? Could it be a fourth, fifth cousin, so that eliminates them?” Amos asks. “I realize this is a lot closer than that, but where do you draw the line?” Amos says there were a lot of construction firms competing for the work and none complained when Culver Construction was the low-bidder and got the county contracts.

“If there would have been anything inappropriate, it would have been brought up at that time,” Amos says. According to the Ernst campaign, Ernst does not have a financial stake in her father’s company and a spokeswoman for Ernst calls the allegations of a conflict of interest “frivolous.”

(Radio Iowa)

Bike lending program in Omaha expands


October 13th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

While bicycling season is starting to wind down with cooler weather arriving in the region, a popular bike sharing program in Omaha is expanding its reach across the river into Iowa. Ben Turner is program director for Heartland B-Cycle, which offers pedal-powered two-wheelers for rent at kiosks all around the metro area.

Turner says, “We’re adding 20 stations in the next few months, changing our name to Heartland B-Cycle and we’re going to be the second multi-state bike sharing program in the country.” Turner says the organization is adding six kiosks in Council Bluffs and will have a total of 31 stations in the two-state area. Tourists and locals are using the bikes frequently and Turner says it’s a natural move to broaden the base across the Missouri.

Turner says, “People ride into Council Bluffs with B-Cycles every day so it just makes perfect sense to have stations there and we should be everywhere that bicyclists want to go and that’s Council Bluffs and Omaha.” Bike sharing stations will stretch from downtown Council Bluffs all the way to Village Pointe in west Omaha. You can purchase memberships with the group for 24-hours, 30-days or by the year. He says the addition of 20 kiosks and dozens of bikes will cost just under one-million dollars, with the money coming from private partnerships and grants, no tax dollars.

(Radio Iowa)

Two arrests over the weekend in Guthrie County


October 13th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Two people were arrested on separate charges last Saturday, in Guthrie County. The Sheriff’s Office says at approximately 9:43 PM. 53-year old John Roger Reese, of Jamaica, was stopped for a traffic violation in Jamaica. During the course of the traffic stop, Reese was found to have a revoked driver’s license due to an operating while intoxicated revocation. He was cited and released pending an appearance in Guthrie County Magistrate Court.

And at around 11:40-p.m. Saturday, 34-year old Kenneth Lee Harlow Jr., of Scranton, was stopped and subsequently arrested following an encounter with law enforcement in Bayard. Harlow was arrested for Operating While Intoxicated 2nd Offense and was transported to the Guthrie County Jail. He appeared before the Guthrie County Magistrate the following day and was released on his own recognizance.

Greenfield woman and Ankeny man arrested on drug and other charges in Guthrie County


October 13th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Two people were arrested earlier this month on drug and other charges, following a traffic stop Oct. 3rd, in Guthrie County. The Sheriff’s Office reported Monday (today), 29-year old Jessica Marie Martin, of Greenfield, was charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance – Methamphetamine 1st Offense, Possession of a Controlled Substance – Morphine 1st Offense, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Martin was also charged with a Drug Tax Stamp Violation and Possessing Contraband in a Correctional Facility or Jail, both of which are felonies. The woman later posted bond before seeing a magistrate, and was released.

36-year old Louis Mack Brittain, of Ankeny,was found to be in possession of a dangerous weapon, an electronic immobilization device.  He was also found to have an active arrest warrant out of Polk County.  Brittain appeared before the magistrate and was remanded to the custody of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The pair were arrested after the vehicle they were in was stopped for a traffic violation at around 12:40-a.m., Oct. 3rd, in Guthrie Center. During the stop, illegal items were found on Martin, and in the vehicle.