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Iowa Public Information Board sued over alleged violation of state Open Meetings Law

Iowa Capital Dispatch
July 18, 2024

The state panel charged with ensuring transparency in government is being sued for allegedly violating Iowa’s Open Meetings Law.

Briana Reha of Polk County is suing the Iowa Public Information Board and its members for the manner in which they approved a pay raise for the board’s executive director, Erika Eckley.

The lawsuit alleges that on June 25, IPIB posted an agenda for its June 27 board meeting. Nine minutes into the meeting, Monica McHugh, the board chairman, proposed an increase to Eckley’s salary as a topic for board deliberation and action. After briefly discussing the matter, the board approved a 6% salary increase for Eckley by unanimous vote, bringing her total annual salary to $103,307.60.

Iowa's largest ethanol producer POET, LLC agrees to $53,000 in fines for air emission violations

Iowa's largest ethanol producer – POET, LLC – has agreed to fines totaling $53,000 for hazardous air emissions from its Shell Rock refinery over a two-year period.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) imposed a $10,000 fine – the most the department is allowed to levy without submitting the case to the Iowa Attorney General's office – and assessed a $43,000 fee – or $70 per ton for the more than 600 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOC's) the plant released during 2021 and 2022.

Bettendorf agrees to pay $2.3 million to victims struck by car on I-74 bridge bike/pedestrian lane

The city of Bettendorf has agreed to pay a total of $2.3 million to the victims struck by a car while they were walking on the pedestrian trail adjacent to the I-74 Bridge two years ago.

Two of the victims were killed and the third seriously injured when a drunk driver mistook the bike/pedestrian trail for a vehicular lane and drove into the trio as they were crossing the bridge May 22, 2022.

In addition to the amounts to be paid by the city and its insurance carrier, the settlement agreement approved by the city council June 18 states the city of Moline will pay a total of $100,000 to two of the victims. Under terms of the settlement, the city is not admitting liability.

Federal judge blocks Iowa immigration law, Attorney General Brenna Bird vows to appeal injunction

by Robin Opsahl, Iowa Capital Dispatch
June 17, 2024

A federal judge on Monday issued a preliminary injunction for Iowa’s law on illegal immigration, blocking it before enforcement was set to begin July 1.

The U.S. Department of Justice and a coalition of civil rights groups argued in court a week ago that Senate File 2340 should not be allowed to take effect.

Signed earlier this year, the measure gives law enforcement officials the power to charge undocumented immigrants with an aggravated misdemeanor for being found in Iowa after having been previously deported, denied admission or removed from the U.S., or if they have an order to leave the country.

Iowa GOP reaction to verdict misses key point

by Ed Tibbetts, Iowa Capital Dispatch
May 31, 2024

Iowa’s top Republicans were unanimous in reacting to the guilty verdict against Donald Trump on Thursday.

Not a one declared he was innocent.

Did you notice?

Sure, they all complained the trial was a sham. They criticized the judge and the prosecutor. They said the case was politically motivated. But none of them declared in their statements that Trump was innocent.

Trump claimed he did nothing wrong. But his top supporters in Iowa didn’t back up his claim.

This silence shouldn’t be lost on anyone. It speaks volumes about how our state’s top Republicans see the American legal system, at least insofar as it pertains to Donald Trump.

Iowa's Attorney General Brenna Bird disrespects America’s legal system with comments at Trump trial

by Ed Tibbetts, Iowa Capital Dispatch
May 16, 2024

First, the good news: Most Americans trust juries.

Now, the bad news: Iowa’s attorney general apparently isn’t one of them.

Brenna Bird joined a bunch of other Republican politicians at the New York trial of Donald Trump this week and immediately pronounced it a farce. “Politics has no place in a court of law,” she said.

Unfortunately, Brenna Bird fails this standard. Iowa’s attorney general, who formerly worked for Rep. Steve King, has been aggressively making her name in GOP circles since being narrowly elected in 2022, repeatedly suing the Biden administration. Hardly a week goes by when her public relations people aren’t heralding a new lawsuit. Donald Trump has even practically anointed her a future governor.

On Monday, Bird took leave of her duties in Iowa to be in New York to be part of the Trump entourage seeking to torpedo the proceedings there. Among her fellow travelers: U.S. Sens. J.D. Vance and Tommy Tuberville.

Iowans who value the rule of law ought to be disgusted.

Many Iowa rivers are brimming with nitrate

by Jared Strong, Iowa Capital Dispatch
May 12, 2024

Nitrate contamination of Iowa’s rivers has surged in recent weeks amid heavy, widespread rainfall, according to data collected by the Iowa Water Quality Information System.

Concentrations of nitrate in several large waterways — including the Boone, Cedar, Iowa and Turkey rivers — have recently reached four-year peaks, the data show. Further, many of the affected rivers also have much higher than usual stream flows, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That often reduces the concentrations.

Because the flows and concentrations are so high, the total nitrate load is also very high.

“This is one of the biggest nitrate leaching events in 11 years,” said David Cwiertny, director of the Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination at the University of Iowa.

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