Macomb 91.3fm - Galesburg 90.7fm Keokuk 89.5fm - Burlington 106.3fm
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Lee County "Secret Meeting" Lawsuit Dropped

Rumble Press

Several members of the Lee County Board of Supervisors are no longer being sued  for allegedly violating Iowa's Open Meetings Act.
Attorney Curt Dial filed the motion to dismiss the lawsuit in district court on Monday, Aug. 10, on behalf of the seven Keokuk residents who had previously filed the suit.  He filed the motion "without prejudice," leaving open the option to refile it in the future.

The lawsuit was filed around the height of the "County Seat" debate in Lee County, which is the only county in Iowa with two seats. Last year, there was a push to move all county government to one location.

On Sept. 2, 2014, Supervisor Ron Fedler unveiled a proposal to name Fort Madison as the county's lone county seat, essentially moving all services out of the other county seat in Keokuk.  The first vote on his proposal was scheduled for two days later, but Fedler pulled it from consideration.  The move drew thunderous applause during a meeting that night near Donnellson.

That appeared to be the end of the discussion, until the lawsuit was filed a week later in South Lee County District Court.

In it, Fedler, Rick Larkin and Ernie Schiller were accused of holding secret meetings leading up to the meeting where the county seat proposal was pulled from consideration.

The county board has five members, so if three of them are discussing county business together, that constitutes a quorum and a public notice of the meeting must be provided. The plaintiffs said the three of them met without posting public notice, and as a result, they wanted the three of them to face fines.

The lawsuit was amended several months later to include another alleged secret meeting.

A trial date had been set for early February 2016 and depositions were scheduled to get underway the day after the motion to dismiss was filed.

"The plaintiffs thought that the make-up of the board had changed to where this was not going to be an issue in the future," said Attorney Curt Dial.  "Therefore, they were content with letting it go now."

The only change to the make-up of the board is that Don Hunold replaced Ernie Schiller.  Rick Larkin and Ron Fedler remain on the board.

It's unclear if taxpayers will be on the hook for any costs accrued representing the supervisors in the lawsuit to this point.

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