Letter raises concernsSupervisors, Brock discuss events of April 23 meeting
After the April 23 Board of Supervisors’ meeting was adjourned, Chairman Ron Bennett and Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. went to County Attorney Larry Brock’s office to ask for a letter to the Regional Utility System Services (RUSS)Board explaining the supervisors’ actions that morning during the meeting.
During the board meeting Supervisor Stan Stoops realized he voted the wrong way on a motion to remove the Regional Utility Service Systems involvement with the Rubio sanitary sewer project. When Stoops asked the board to do the motion over again, Brock said, “You need to pay attention to what’s going on and understand the motion.”
Stoops explained that his hearing aid batteries died before the meeting began and that he didn’t hear the motion in question.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Brock said as he stood up from his front-row seat. “This is ridiculous.”
Brock then walked out of the meeting.
During an interview withBennett and Seward Thursday, Seward said, “When Ron and I went to Larry’s office after the board of supervisor meeting where we took those actions and took those votes, as we just thought it was proper that the county attorney would provide us with a letter or write a letter officially notifying RUSS of the actions that we took. At that time, he was still under the impression or it was still his opinion that he doubted whether the votes we took were legal and was going to do the research to find out, but I don’t think he was prepared to make any sort of letter until he found out about the legality of the votes we had taken.”
Bennett said Thursday, “When we left the room, I could tell he (Brock) wasn’t wanting to do the letter.”
Bennett said Brock has written letters to RUSS before the April 23 meeting.
“I thought it was pretty clear he wasn’t happy with the vote, whether we did it right or not. I don’t think he was happy with it,” he said.
Bennett also said to Brock, “You let us know what you find out.”
Seward said that he and Bennett then went to the county auditor’s office to ask County Auditor Dan Widmer for some kind of document that Seward could take to the RUSS board meeting the next day, April 24.
Widmer, who was in Des Moines that day, provided a cover letter and an excerpt from the preliminary draft of the minutes of the April 23 meeting that states, “Stoops realized that he had voted in error and requested a re-vote. Brock stated his objection to re-voting. Stoops moved, and Seward seconded, a motion to make necessary plans to de-obligate Rubio.”
On Wednesday, April 24, Seward said that he stopped by the supervisors’ chambers in the county courthouse before going to the RUSS board meeting.
“I stopped in here specifically to see if there was a note, a letter, an e-mail or any communication from county attorney before I went to RUSS, and there was none.”
Seward said that he then went to The Washington Evening Journal’s office and bought five copies of the Tuesday, April 23, edition of the newspaper to show the RUSS board what had taken place at the board of supervisors meeting.
When asked if a letter from the county attorney to RUSS was necessary, Seward said, “I think they were satisfied with what I brought to the [RUSS meeting].”
Thursday, Bennett said a letter from Brock to RUSS “would have been nice.”
He and Seward both said that, as of the morning of May 2, Brock had not talked about the letter.
In more general terms about the supervisors’ decision to remove the sanitary sewer systems from RUSS, Seward said, “They were unhappy that we weren’t going to have the big projects for them, but they were pretty thankful that there is a resolution, that Ollie [sewer system] would go forward.”
In an interview on Thursday afternoon, May 2, Brock said that while he has no animosity toward the supervisors, he feels they have animosity toward him.
“The comments I have received from some of the individual supervisors,” Brock said when asked why he believed that was the case.
Brock declined to elaborate on what was said, but said he believed the board was “holding a grudge against me.” He said that he did not believe it would impact the operations of the county attorney’s office.
“I think there is a reluctance for them to accept some of the legal opinions that come out of this office because it doesn’t necessarily agree with what they want to do,” Brock said.
Of the April 23 supervisors’ meeting, Brock said Thursday that he was “frustrated” that it appeared Stoops was not paying attention to what was going on. He said this is an ongoing concern. He also said that at least one of the supervisors regularly does not appear to be prepared for the meetings.
“It was frustration – I shouldn’t have walked out,” he said. “Frustration had built up at that point and rather than doing something I would have really regretted, I decided to walk out.”
After having researched the issue, Brock said that while procedurally the second vote was probably not done the proper way, it was legal and would stand. Usually, in cases such as this, one of the board members who voted with the majority can ask for a motion to reconsider the prior motion instead of making a new motion.
“The end result — assuming supervisor Stoops understood what he was voting on this time — probably would have been the same as it was,” Brock said.
Brock said that RUSS is now taking the necessary steps to de-obligate the bonds that were pledged to Richmond and Rubio projects. He said RUSS would eventually provide an invoice of the money the county will need to repay for those projects.
Brock said that supervisors Bennett and Seward had come into his office to ask him to write a letter from the supervisors to the RUSS board indicating the decision that was made at the meeting. He said at the time he was still researching the correct procedure for redoing the vote.
“I’m obligated to give them legal opinions if requested,” Brock said. “I don’t know to what extent I am obligated to write letters on their behalf. I don’t think that is one of the duties I have.
“Frankly, I didn’t have the time to sit down and write them any kind of letter when Jack (Seward) was going over the next day anyway and could explain in his own words exactly what the board had done.”
The Iowa State code governing the duties of county attorney (331.756) does not list writing letters as a duty. The section says the county attorney will represent the county in legal proceedings or give written opinions if requested by county officers.
On a separate county issue — the zoning ordinance — Brock had said if the supervisors didn’t take his advice on the procedure to follow that he wouldn’t represent the county if litigation were filed.
“Ethically I couldn’t,” he said. “If they went against my legal advice I couldn’t present a position in court that I didn’t believe was supported by the law. That is my ethical duty as an attorney. It has nothing to do whether they follow my advice or not.”
He said that he did not believe RUSS would seek litigation as a result of the county’s withdrawal from the projects. Brock said that the county has already indicated it would repay RUSS whatever money is owed. He also said the supervisors had not asked his advice on whether the county can de-obligate Richmond and Rubio, so he never gave them an opinion.