Twisters and a "Caitlin Clark" citing


It was a crazy past week.
Most of the time I like a message in my Sunday nonsense and this week I thought about talking about student loan debt and President Joe Biden’s never-ending attempts to wipe out a good portion of that crippling, federal swipe.
I’m not going to do that because it could get political and that’s never good for anyone, but suffice it to say the government shouldn’t be making billions off putting students through college. That was a private market enterprise and should’ve stayed that way. It actually helped keep the price of college down, but that’s for another day.
Today, I just want to talk about the weird week that was.
It started on Monday when I found myself questioning the legitimacy of a closed session that my other employer, Lee County, was headed into to discuss “imminent” litigation. I said weird, and that’s weird. I’m questioning the very board that gave me a wonderful opportunity to write and comply with grants and handle their ARPA funds. But here I am, sitting in the meeting asking Lee County Chairman Garry Seyb if he’s sure he’s overcome the hurdle of the definition of imminent with Lee County Attorney Ross Braden sitting just behind me.
“If you come out of this closed session without filing a lawsuit, how do you justify the closed session because clearly litigation is not imminent. The Iowa code the board cited was 21.5(1)c: “To discuss strategy with counsel in matters that are presently in litigation or where litigation is imminent where its disclosure would be likely to prejudice or disadvantage the position of the governmental body in that litigation.”
Take “judicial” note if you will that the language does NOT say …where litigation is likely imminent, it says imminent. Think of it this way, is death imminent? Not necessarily, even though we all will eventually get there. But when you say death is imminent, it changes the meaning to it’s coming very soon.
At issue are some drainage concerns at 320th Avenue that have arisen after the construction of the PORT trail up 15th Street to Rodeo Park.  The county contends the issues were created with the construction and, according to a 28E agreement, the city is responsible as owner of the trail to correct any issues. However, the city contends it isn’t the construction but poor county drainage systems that are the problem. Either way, it would seem like a problem that a cup of coffee and some compromise could solve. And we’re not convinced ultimately that type of thing will lead to the resolution.
Meanwhile, back at the closed session, if there still is no commitment to filing a suit, then the litigation can ‘t be defined as imminent. Therefore, we feel the closed session was in error. You also have to give consideration to the fact that the county came out of the session and filed in intent to file, giving the city two weeks to react to the contentions of the 28E. If they are giving the city two weeks to react, then, again, the lawsuit is not imminent.
We will be asking for the recordings of the closed session as a “trust but verify” move to protect the public’s right to access conversations of an elected body.
Words matter…grammar matters…sentence construction matters, and all this language under Iowa Code 21 is geared to make public bodies conduct business in an open fashion not as a matter of regular business, but as a matter critical to the integrity of the board itself. The margin of error in that judgment to go into closed session is razor thin, and the code was specifically written to reach that thin layer of exemption.
So that was a seriously weird way to start the week and then on Thursday, at a soft-opening for the Fort Madison Marina and Turnwater Bar & Grill, where Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks called Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld the “Caitlin Clark of Iowa Mayors”.
Now I was expecting something huge from the Mayor when he took the stage, after all, he doesn’t think basketball is a real sport. If it has a ball, it’s not a sport. I’m not sure where he gets that, but no one can pass judgment on the validity of his commitment to running and swimming, both sports that do not engage a ball.
The ”Caitlin Clark of Mayors”. And this is coming from someone who was referred to as a rock star of Economic Development by Lee County EDG President Dennis Fraise.
“I really missed a cue, I should’ve walked up and said, “I only want to make three points tonight,” Mohrfeld said after the event. “But I doubt I’ve put a whole gender on the map.”
Well, maybe not. But we’d be hard pressed to say you haven’t helped put Fort Madison on the map.
Throw in some storm chasing on Tuesday night where I would’ve sworn I was going to get my first twister photo ever and yeah, it was a crazy week. But in the news world, that’s what makes it so much fun.
Taking principal at risk of profit, chasing ugly storm clouds, and a “Caitlin Clark” citing made this week’s work just a bit more entertaining for me, and hopefully for you – But that’s Beside the Point.
Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

Beside the Point, commentary, opinion, Mayor Matt Mohrfeld, Chuck Vandenberg, Sunday, editorial, storms, tornadoes, Fort Madison Marina, Turnwater Bar and Grill, Debi Durham, open meetings laws, Iowa Code, news, Pen City Current


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