BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A sitting Fort Madison City Councilman was granted a deferred judgment on Friday morning in North Lee County Court.
Travis Seidel, who represents the 3rd Ward on the Fort Madison City Council, pleaded guilty on March 30 to a Class C felony for selling narcotics within 1,000 feet of a school. The charge was filed against him on Dec. 8 when he was arrested at his home by the Lee County Narcotics Task Force on two counts of distributing hydromorphone.
Lee County Attorney Ross Braden offered a deferred judgment in the case citing a lack of a criminal history in Seidel’s record. The agreement places Seidel on probation for a period of five years. If the probation is completed satisfactorily per the agreement, no criminal record of the felony will be placed on Seidel’s permanent record.
“The judge granted that deferred judgment because he has no real criminal history,” Braden said. “With that comes five years of probation.”
The question still remains as to whether or not Seidel can now remain on the council.
Section 69.2 (1)(f), of the Iowa Code reads: 1. Every civil office shall be vacant if any of the following events occur – f. The conviction of the incumbent of a felony, an aggravated misdemeanor, or of any public offense involving the violation of the incumbent’s oath of office.
However Braden has contended that the deferred judgment creates a gray area at this point as to whether or not deferred judgments represent conviction.
“In some areas of Iowa legislation a deferred judgment is not a conviction, and in others it is,” Braden said. He reiterated that now the issue rests in the hands of the Fort Madison City Council.
City Manager David Varley said nothing has been added to the agenda to address the issues.
“The code has language in it that a felon can’t sit on the council, but we don’t know where we’re at with that,” he said Friday. “The mayor and our attorney’s are reviewing the situation and doing research and then they’ll decide which way to proceed. But they wanted to wait until after today.”
Mayor Brad Randolph said conversations are taking place about the issue.
“The City Manager and I have conferred with the city attorney (Robert Johnson) and with outside legal counsel about this situation and have received detailed advice,” he said. “The Council is in the process of reviewing that advice. Once they have done that, the Council will need to decide how to proceed given Iowa Code and Fort Madison Code. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this time.”
The Iowa Attorney General’s office in May said they couldn’t entertain an inquiry into the issue until a judge had ruled on the case and then someone from the city would have to request a review and interpretation of the code.