Category: Iowa

Man Claims Fired Iowa Agency Director Paid Him Less Than Women

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A state employee at the Iowa Finance Authority is suing the state for wage discrimination and sex discrimination, alleging the agency’s fired former director paid women significantly more than him.

Steve Ferguson, 68, said in court documents filed Monday in state court that former IFA Director David Jamison got him hired in 2012 as director of the Iowa Agricultural Development Authority.

After becoming smitten with women in Ferguson’s office, Jamison convinced the state to make the agriculture development office an agency under Jamison’s management, Ferguson claims.

Jamison then offered two women who worked for Ferguson jobs paying thousands of dollars more than Ferguson was offered. One woman got a 21 percent pay raise while Ferguson took a pay cut from the $92,000 he made as head of the Agriculture Development Authority to less than $59,000.

Jamison, a long-time friend of Gov. Kim Reynolds, was fired by her in March 2018 after allegations of sexual harassment by female employees.

Ferguson said in the lawsuit, which names the IFA and the state, that the pay differential continues. He wants a pay adjustment and compensation for damages, including emotional distress, lost wages and employment benefits.

An Iowa attorney general spokesman declined Wednesday to comment on the lawsuit.

City of Waukee Debuting Epic Playground

WAUKEE, Iowa — Thursday afternoon, the Waukee Betterment Foundation and the city of Waukee will be screening a video of the community’s future Epic Playground. What makes this park so epic is that it’s been designed by the firm, Landscape Structures. Each year Landscape Structures picks a new destination for an Epic Park and for 2022, they chose Waukee. Landscape Structures designed more than 80,000 parks nationwide but this park will officially be their biggest park in the U.S.

This 66-acre park will include 12 baseball and softball fields, an 11-acre lake for kayaking and canoeing, an ADA-compliant fishing pier, an all-access playground, and the Waukee Miracle League Ball Field. President of the Waukee Betterment Foundation, Todd McDonald, said they pride themselves on this being an all inclusive park, serving those with all different abilities and are excited about serving not just Waukee, but all of central Iowa.

“This is a project for Dallas County. It’s a project that is going to serve not only Waukee but West Des Moines, Adel, Earlham, Dallas Center, and Perry and everything to the western side of the suburbs. It gives an opportunity for the much larger community to be impacted,” McDonald.

The event will be at 4:30 p.m. at the Palms Theater in Waukee.

The park will be located near the new Northwest High School on N. 10th Street in Waukee.

The Waukee Betterment Foundation is raising $3 million to support this project by 2022. They currently have raised $1.4 million from grants and donations.

Vehicular Homicide Charge Filed in Deadly Polk County Crash

POLK COUNTY, Iowa – A Polk City man is now charged with homicide by vehicle following a crash that killed an Ankeny man back in November of 2019.

Fifty-one-year-old Aaron Lehman is charged with homicide by vehicle-reckless driving as well as traffic violations in the fatal crash that killed 55-year-old Tracy Gugger.

The crash happened on the 13000 block of NW 16th Street on Nov. 25th. Investigators say Lehman was traveling 20 miles over the posted speed limit of 55 miles per hour, and talking on his phone, when his pickup truck struck a Ford Mustang from behind.

The criminal complaint says the Mustang was traveling at a slow speed on the roadway and because of Lehman’s speed and the distraction of the phone, “it reduced his time to perceive the other vehicle was traveling at a reduced speed. By the time the defendant did perceive the Ford was slowed it was too late [to] avoid the collision.”

Gugger was a passenger in the Mustang and died at the scene.

Lehman was booked into the Polk County Jail Wednesday and was released after posting bond the same day. His next court appearance is scheduled for January 30th.

New Dallas County Law Enforcement Center Nearing Completion

ADEL, Iowa — The new Dallas County Law Enforcement Center has been in the works since 2013 and now is only a few months away from completion.

After three failed attempts at approving a bond referendum for the new facility and jail, it was finally approved. The $22.7 million project broke ground in 2017. Now it’s finally hitting the home stretch after numerous delays to the construction portion of the project as well.

Sheriff Chad Leonard said weather played a major role in the delays that caused the completion date to be pushed back almost a whole year, but the project is still on track financially.

The center will have major improvements to the jail. The current facility was technically only built to hold 24 beds, but this new jail will have 132 beds. Dallas County will no longer have to transport inmates when its beds are full and ultimately save millions of dollars in the long run.

It’s not only larger but is also top of the line in design. It features things like a correctional officer center in the jail pod that allows them to see inmates from a bird’s eye view, special lighting and glass that allows officers to see into day rooms but doesn’t allow inmates to see out, and other items that improves the facility’s functionality and safety.

“This facility is kind of a state of the art facility. What we currently have now, with the way our current jail is, if we have a problem with the plumbing or any issues our maintenance people have to go inside the cells and work on stuff and we have to move inmates around. The way this one is designed all the mechanical stuff is behind in a chase, behind the jail itself so maintenance people can fix almost anything from that chase and never have to enter the jail itself,” Sheriff Leonard said.

The law enforcement center will also feature a kitchen, which will be cost-effective in the long run not having to outsource food for inmates anymore.

Earlier this week Sheriff Leonard gave the board of supervisors a tour now that you can really start to see how this new facility will help this fast-growing county.

“Everybody was pretty excited about it because coming from what we are currently in now, we have approximately 90 employees and you know that building that we were in was originally is set up for I think 28 employees and that was a future number that they were looking at when they built that one. So it has grown, grown a lot,” Sheriff Leonard said.

Sheriff Leonard hopes to have staff in and trained and ready to transfer over inmates by late April.

Former Ames Restaurant Owner Charged with Tax Evasion, Fraudulent Practices

AMES, Iowa — The former owner of three popular Ames restaurants is now facing felony charges.

Fifty-seven-year-old Scott Griffen is accused of several crimes including ongoing criminal conduct, fraudulent practice, and willful evasion of sales tax. Court documents state the crimes happened between January 2016 and August of 2018.

Griffen closed Olde Main Brewing Company, DG’s Tap House, and Corner Pocket in May of last year, shortly after agreeing to voluntarily surrender his liquor licenses.

He’s is due back in court next month.

If convicted of all charges, Griffen faces up to 41 years in prison.

Pedestrian Critically Injured After Being Hit by Dump Truck

DES MOINES, Iowa — One person is in critical condition after being struck by a dump truck Wednesday morning in downtown Des Moines.

It happened near the intersection of Eighth Street and Grand Avenue around 11:30 a.m.

Police haven’t released many details and are still looking into what led up to the crash.

The name of the adult male that was hit by the truck has not yet been released.

Democrats Face Risks and Limits in Trump’s Impeachment Trial

WASHINGTON (AP) — The challenge is becoming increasingly clear for House Democrats prosecuting President Donald Trump’s impeachment case as the Senate convenes for a second day of arguments in the landmark trial.

No matter how overwhelming the evidence confronting Trump, it becomes less compelling when presented again and again, day after day, as Democrats try to convince not just fidgety senators but an American public deeply divided over the Republican president in an election year.

The team led by Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of House Intelligence Committee, constructed a gripping account of Trump’s political pressure on Ukraine and attempt to cover up the “corrupt scheme” central to the charges. But the limits are apparent. Prosecutors must rely on the same loops of videotaped testimony — ambassadors, national security officials and even the president himself — after Trump’s GOP Senate allies blocked new witnesses.

It’s a politically risky moment for Democrats, who were once reluctant to take on impeachment during an election year but are marching toward a decision by the Senate that the American public also will judge.

“We’re trying this case to two juries — the Senate and the American people,” Schiff acknowledged Wednesday ahead of opening arguments. “The American people are watching. The American people are listening. And they do have an open mind.”

Trump’s lawyers sat by, waiting their turn, while the president blasted the proceedings from afar, joking that he would face off with the Democrats by coming to “sit right in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces.”

House Democrats impeached Trump last month, arguing he abused his office by asking Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden while withholding crucial military aid. They also charged him with obstructing Congress by refusing to turn over documents or allow officials to testify in the House probe. Republicans have defended Trump’s actions as appropriate and cast the process as a politically motivated effort to weaken the president in the midst of his reelection campaign.

Campaigning in Iowa, Biden stood by the effort to remove Trump from office.

“People ask the question, ‘Isn’t the president going to be stronger and harder to beat if he survives this?’ Yes, probably. But Congress has no choice,” he said. Senators must cast their votes and “live with that in history.”

Each side has 24 hours over three days to present their case. After the House prosecutors finish Friday, the president’s lawyers will follow. They are expected to take only Sunday off and push into next week.

Then there will be 16 hours for senators, who must sit quietly at their desks, no speeches or cellphones, to ask written questions, and another four hours for deliberations.

“There’s a lot of things I’d like to rebut,” said Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow at the Capitol, “and we will rebut.”

On the first day of opening arguments, Schiff appealed to senators not to be “cynical” about politics, but to draw on the intent of the nation’s Founding Fathers in providing the remedy of impeachment and removal. He spoke directly to Republicans to join them in voting to oust Trump from office to “protect our democracy.”

Holding the room proved difficult. Most senators sat at their desks throughout, as the rules stipulate, though some stretched their legs, standing behind the desks or against the back wall of the chamber, passing the time. Sometimes they outwardly yawned. Republicans quietly smirked at the presentation from Schiff and the lesser-known House Democrats prosecuting the case.

Nearing nine long hours of arguments, the empty seats became glaringly apparent. Sen. Dianne Feinstein D-Calif., was under the weather and left early. Some lawmakers dashed down the hall to appear on television. Visitors thinned from the galleries, one briefly interrupting in protest and being removed by Capitol police.

The impeachment trial is set against the backdrop of the 2020 election. All four senators who are Democratic presidential candidates are off the campaign trail, seated as jurors.

Several GOP senators said Wednesday they’d seen no evidence to support the allegations against Trump even though, just 24 hours earlier, they had rejected subpoenas for additional witnesses as well as documents. Democrats, meanwhile, described the evidence against the president as overwhelming but said senators had a duty to gather more.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed the public slightly more likely to say the Senate should convict and remove Trump from office than to say it should not, 45% to 40%. But a sizable percentage, 14%, said they didn’t know enough to have an opinion.

One issue with wide agreement: Trump should allow top aides to appear as witnesses at the trial. About 7 in 10 said so, including majorities of Republicans and Democrats, according to the poll.

The strategy of more witnesses, though, seemed all but settled. Republicans rejected Democratic efforts to get Trump aides including former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, to testify in back-to-back votes earlier this week.

Senators were likely to repeat that rejection next week, shutting out any chance of new testimony.

A long-shot idea to pair one of Trump’s preferred witnesses — Biden’s son Hunter Biden — with Bolton or another that Democrats want was swiftly rejected. “That’s off the table,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters.

Biden also rejected having his son testify or even appearing himself. “I want no part of that,” he told voters in Iowa.

Some Republicans expressed disdain for it all. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa spoke sarcastically about how excited she was to hear the “overwhelming evidence” the House Democrats promised against Trump.

“And once we’ve heard that overwhelming evidence,” she said, raising her voice mockingly, “I don’t know that we’ll need to see additional witnesses, but let’s hear about that overwhelming evidence.”

Schumer bemoaned the limits on witnesses, saying Wednesday the impeachment trial “begins with a cloud hanging over it, a cloud of unfairness.”

Republicans remained eager for a swift trial. Yet Trump’s legal team passed on an opportunity to file a motion to dismiss the case on Wednesday, an acknowledgment that there were not enough Republican votes to support it.

The White House legal team, in its court filings and presentations, has not disputed Trump’s actions. But the lawyers insist the president did nothing wrong.

___

Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Alan Fram, Andrew Taylor, Laurie Kellman, Matthew Daly and Padmananda Rama in Washington and Bill Barrow in Osage, Iowa, contributed to this report.

Christmas Gift Helps Arrest Three Suspects During Home Burglary

 

DES MOINES, Iowa — Becoming a victim of a home burglary can have a chilling effect.  “Hurt, sad, angry, frustrated,” said Mary Jane Swanberg.  The Polk County Sheriff’s office says around 11:45am Wednesday Mary Jane and Mike Swanberg’s home in the 4400 block of NE 34th Street in Des Moines became a burglary in progress.  “It just makes you mad and upset. Why they would do something like that and it is not there’s. Leave it alone you know,” said Mike.

It was a crime that the Swanberg’s watched unfold live on their Blink home security cameras. Mike said, “They were in the backyard going to the garage trying to go to the garage and running around to the backside of the house.  I saw three suspects and that’s when I called the police.”

Mike first received an alert on his phone detecting motion and the break-in so he called 9-1-1.  “Right here on the spot and one vehicle was here and another vehicle here within minutes,” said Mike.  Because of Mike’s quick action, deputies made perhaps some of the two quickest arrests of the year.  “The situation, it developed very rapidly.  When deputies arrived the suspects were still in the home,” said Lieutenant Heath Osberg with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.  Thirty-three-year-old Nathaniel Potter and thirty-three-year-old Britney Mullin were arrested at the home and charged with 3rd degree burglary.  Mary Jane said, “I could actually cry right now because I just don’t understand it.”

Forty-one-year-old Ryan Mullin did not cooperate so easy and fled the scene on foot before being arrested and charged with 2nd and 3rd degree robbery.  Osberg said, “He ran about a block to the east onto NE 35th Street and broke into a second home to try and hide from us.”

The swanberg’s aren’t just thankful the suspects were caught.  They are thankful they decided to install the cameras just a month ago and received it only as a Christmas gift they originally were unsure about.  Mary Jane said, “I was like oh what do I want this for?”  A gift that thankfully kept giving.  “Nice, it paid off.  It actually paid off this time,” said Mary Jane.

 

Iowa Department of Public Health Said Coronavirus Risk Remains Low in Iowa

IOWA – The Iowa Department of Public Health says Iowans should not be worried of coronavirus.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati said, “Anytime you see the emergent of a new virus that can affect people that’s going to be a concern for public health. Right now, the risk here in Iowa remains low.”

The Center for Disease Control confirms hundreds are sick from the virus and at least nine people have died. The virus was first detected in Wuhan City, China.

The first United States case was confirmed Tuesday in Washington State.

Pedati said the virus is believed to be spread by human interaction.

“Now that we’ve seen more cases there does appear to be limited human to human transmission. So, that means interacting with somebody who’s sick and is coughing or sneezing and shares droplets with somebody else is a way the virus can move from person to person,” Pedati said.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, difficulty breathing and more.

John F. Kennedy International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, San Francisco International Airport and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport are screening travelers arriving from Wuhan, China.

The Des Moines International Airport said they will not conduct screenings due to the lack of direct flights from China.

“We want people to pay attention to things like the CDC travel alerts, which advise people if they are going to be traveling to Wuhan City to practice precautions, avoid interacting with sick people, animals or animal markets and if you return and become sick we want you to let your healthcare provider know where you’ve been,” Pedati said.

The CDC lists China at an ‘Alert- Level 2’ for  travelers going to and from China. It asks people practice enhanced precautions.

Pedati said the virus is similar to SARS that killed hundreds of people between 2002 and 2003.

“Viruses are tricky things. They have a way of replicating themselves and when they do that there is sometimes able to change their DNA, RNA their genetic material in a way that allows them to do something new,” Pedati said.

According to Drake University one student is currently studying abroad and another is set to fly to China next month. The university is monitoring the situation and said the virus is not impacting programs.

Iowa State University told Iowa Media there are three students studying abroad in China and are not impacted by the virus at this time. The university is monitoring the situation.

Governor Reynolds Tours Glenwood Facility at Center of Federal and State Investigations

GLENWOOD, Iowa  —  Governor Kim Reynolds paid her first visit to the Glenwood Resource Center on Wednesday for the first time since federal and state investigations into alleged experimentation on disabled residents were announced in December.

The Department of Justice began investigating allegations of “uncontrolled” experimentation on residents at the center in November.  Those experiments allegedly included studies on sexual arousal and “optimal hydration.”  The Iowa Department of Public Safety has launched its own investigation as well.  In December, Reynolds fired the facility’s superintendent, Jerry Rea.

Reynolds was joined by Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg and DHS Director Kelly Garcia on the tour of the facility in western Iowa on Wednesday.  The group met with staff and then boarded a bus to tour the facility.  Reynolds said her takeaways from the visit were all positive.

I was very pleased with the interaction, to speak with employees to talk about what their daily routine looks like. I actually got to visit with several of the individuals that are living here. One woman met me at the bus to take me on a tour of her home,” Reynolds said after the tour, “She was very excited to talk about what she does on a daily basis, to show me the kitchen. They get off-site a lot, they are able to interact with the community. So it was very rewarding to have the opportunity to interact not only with the employees but the individuals that are living here too.”

Director Garcia said she immediately jumped into action by taking “a three-prong approach” to making changes: “Call in the University Of Iowa physicians, to call on our partners at the department of public service to fact find with us on some of the more serious allegations and then the third prong is to have a technical expert on-site and he has been with us and will be with us for another week.”

DHS has contracted with Mark Diorio to provide technical assistance at GRC.

Through this technical assistance, Diorio will:

  • Evaluate GRC’s services for compliance to generally accepted practice standards;
  • Identify areas of needed improvement;
  • Develop an improvement plan to address areas that need improvement;
  • Guide the initial implementation of the plan;
  • Conduct follow-up review of progress of implementation of the plan, and
  • Coordinate with the medical experts evaluating medical care at the GRC.

Director Garcia said the residents of the center probably won’t have to deal with significant changes to their day-to-day activities.

We are looking at the way we deliver our medical care and that’s a key component of the allegation so when I say I don’t expect their everyday life to change, I’m talking about some of the things that the governor mentioned: which are their outings and integration into the community, what their daily life looks like. Are there spaces where we are revisiting the way that care is delivered? There are, but I’m not sure that they will notice that difference we will notice it on the outcome side of things,” Garcia said.

The Department of Human Services announced further action in response to the investigations and questions about Glenwood.  DHS officials will host two town halls at the facility.  A family town hall focused on residents will be held on February 1st.  Director Garcia and AFSCME, the union which represents Glenwood employees, will hold a meeting with staff on February 6th.

DHS officials say they have also turned over more information and documents requested by the Department of Justice in their investigation.  DHS says it will continue to work closely with the DOJ in its investigation.