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Lee County Supervisors Seek New Venue for Lawsuit

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The three members of the Lee County Board of Supervisors accused by several citizens of violating Iowa's open meetings law do not want the case to be heard in Keokuk.  They also feel the case should not be heard by a jury.

The lawsuit filed against Chairman Ernie Schiller and Supervisors Ron Fedler and Rick Larkin accuses the three of holding private meetings in regards to a proposal to name Fort Madison as the lone county seat.

Public backlash led the supervisors to eventually pull the resolution from consideration.

The three supervisors filed a motion to have the lawsuit transferred from South Lee County (Keokuk) to North Lee County (Fort Madison).  The legal system views Lee County as two different counties.

The motion argues several points:

  • The principal place of business for the Lee County Board of Supervisors is Fort Madison
  • The Board's Clerk and two of its three employees are based in Fort Madison
  • A majority of the Board's meetings are held at the Lee County Jail, which is closer to Fort Madison

The motion also emphasizes the distances the three supervisors live from the two courthouses

  • Schiller - 24 miles from Keokuk courthouse, 12 miles from Fort Madison courthouse
  • Fedler - 25 miles from Keokuk courthouse, 11 miles from Fort Madison courthouse
  • Larkin - 26 miles from Keokuk courthouse, 1 mile from Fort Madison courthouse

The citizens who filed the lawsuit live in or around Keokuk.
The court is expected to consider the request this month.  At the same time, the court will announce whether a judge or a jury should decide if Iowa's sunshine laws were violated.

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