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Three Lee County Supervisors Face Lawsuit

Three members of the Lee County Board of Supervisors are accused of violating Iowa's Open Meetings Act.

Seven county residents filed lawsuit in district court, Friday afternoon, against Chairman Ernie Schiller and Supervisors Rick Larkin and Ron Fedler.

The residents listed in the lawsuit include:

  • Kevin Kuckelman
  • James Bowles
  • Birdwell Sutlive, Jr.
  • Jimmy Johnson
  • Michele Hasselbusch
  • Anthony Sargent
  • Vicki Briscoe

The lawsuit alleges the board violated the law during the crafting of an ordinance that would have named Fort Madison as Lee County's only county seat.
Supervisor Ron Fedler presented the ordinance this month, but chose not to bring it up for a vote.  He said it would be better to work on the county seat issue with Vice Chairman Matt Pflug.

Fedler has said he worked with County Attorney Mike Short on the ordinance, with assistance from Schiller and Larkin, but not at the same time to avoid violating the state's sunshine laws.

The plaintiffs disagree.  They said the three held secret meetings that were not open to the public, thus violating the law in the following respects:

  • Failing to give proper notice to the public that the meetings were taking place.
  • Discussing matters in a private session which are not permitted by statute.
  • Failing to make their discussions on issues known to the public.
  • Taking action in violation of the law.
  • Failing to keep detailed minutes and tape recordings of all discussions, persons present or action taken at the secret meetings.

The plaintiffs want the supervisors to be fined and pay for attorney's fees.  They are seeking a jury trial.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.