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Conflict of Interest and Gender Balance face the City Council

These two topics came to a head in both choosing the next Council Member for the City Council 2nd Ward Seat and in the appointment of a VMEU/VMCU (Vinton Municipal Electric Utilities/Communication Utilities) board member.

As Ron Elwick stepped down from his position in the 2nd Ward, and there were no candidates for the 2nd Ward seat. At the last council mtg. the council chose from the two write-in-candidates, and offered the seat to Lu Karr who turned down the offer.

Tonight two men threw their hat in the ring to ask the council to choose between them for the seat.

One was Mark Noe of Noe Aviation. Mark shared his experience. (You can see that clip at the 39 minute mark here)He grew up on a dairy farm with his family, until 2008 when he sold out and started Noe Aviation with his wife Kimberly. The two have been married for 13 years, parents of 5 children. He's a graduate of Iowa State.

He works at General Mills in sanitation coordination, construction management. "Back in the day," he said, he was the vice-president of his FFA chapter. He has also worked in food safety at General Mills dealing with the FDA regulations, internal audits and etc.

His wife Kimberely is on the Airport Board and he knows that at times the council has had questions concerning operations at the airport and he thought he might be able to help with that as well.

He figured since no one else went for the position, he thought he'd do his part and step up for the position.

Andrew Elwick spoke saying that he lives here in town and would be available and would like to help with the upcoming projects. He restated what Noe had said saying he wanted to step up and help out as best he can as well, and that he knows the process.

The council voted, including Ron Elwick. The decision was then made that Elwick should not vote because of a conflict of interest, concerning the relationship between Ron and Andrew Elwick. During the vote the comment was made by the Mayor Bud Maynard, "What if it were a real election?" At which point the city attorney, Bob Fischer pointed out that it didn't work that way. "If the council voted on this and Ronnie has a relationship with the candidate" he explained.

The council voted again and appointed Andrew Elwick on the second ballot.

There was a bit of tension as the conflict of interest topic was batted around, asking the city attorney to make some clarification.

Up next was the appointment to the Electric Board.

Kurt Karr spoke first (Beginning at the 51 minute mark) having submitted his name for the appointment.

Karr has spent more than a dozen years working to bring iVinton to town, and has been at most of the VMEU meetings over the past 4 years. The importance of the board has been impressed on him through this involvement. However, he cited the Iowa Code Section 69.16A which addresses the requirement for cities to make their boards Gender balance which reads:

Gender balance.

1. All appointive boards, commissions, committees, and councils of the state established by the Code, if not otherwise provided by law, shall be gender balanced. No person shall be appointed or reappointed to any board, commission, committee, or council established by the Code if that appointment or reappointment would cause the number of members of the board, commission, committee, or council of one gender to be greater than one-half the membership of the board, commission, committee, or council plus one if the board, commission, committee, or council is composed of an odd number of members. If the board, commission, committee, or council is composed of an even number of members, not more than one-half of the membership shall be of one gender. If there are multiple appointing authorities for a board, commission, committee, or council, they shall consult each other to avoid a violation of this section.

Karr further went on to share the statistics in Iowa that say that there are more women in Iowa than men. (click for a breakdown by county)

Karr was correct. According to the Iowa Data Center link above, women make up 50.9% of the population, so in theory, it shouldn't be hard to find a woman to fill the position. He pointed out that women also volunteer more than men.

In Iowa, out of 99 counties, women outnumber men in 88 of them. Iowa department of human rights

There were two women that also applied for the position. Karr went on to explain that the 2 longest-serving men on the board have a combined 27 years of experience. He further explained that the board doesn't need to understand the details of running the electric plant, but that "the General Manager who is a licensed engineer is there to do the work for them" the board is there to guide the board into setting policy.

Karr withdrew his application to be appointed to the Board.

Amy Edison also spoke as an applicant. She serves on the library board, has a mathematics degree from the University of Nebraska in Omaha and worked as an actuary for 16 years. She has analyzed various forms of insurance over the years.

Heather Kingsbury also applied but was not present to speak.

The position that needs to be filled is one belonging to Mike Elwick. Elwick spoke (at 58 minutes) and mentioned his lengthy service on the board. He is a mechanical engineer by trade graduating from Iowa State University, is the Chairman of the Board currently, worked for and retired from Alliant Energy. He's worked with both high and low voltage, worked in Union negotiations, and was actively involved in the electric plant when it flooded. He expressed his concern in protecting the electrical ratepayers, feels strongly about protecting the employees and ran the utilities while looking for replacements.

Elwick pointed out that a year ago the Council appointed Rich Hainstock which also went against the Iowa Code. While Elwick agrees that the code should be followed, the timing with the new utilities coming in is not the time to add new people to the board.

According to the law, Elwick should not be reappointed simply because of his gender.

However, the Mayor felt that while he agrees with the idea of gender equality, and would rather appoint women but in this case, he feels like Elwick's qualifications outweigh the Iowa Code concerns about gender equality.

The Mayor went ahead and made the appointment of Mike Elwick to the position.

Again the conflict of interest came up concerning Councilman Ron Elwick voting for the VMEU Board Appointment of Mike Elwick. It was decided that he should abstain again.

Nathan Hesson asked for a clear concise answer to how far the conflict of interest goes. He addressed even appointing someone because they might be friends at work, also known as nepotism which is the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs, asking that the city take a serious look to make sure that the city is following the rules in all departments.

The council then voted against the appointment with Parr, Hessenius and Edwards voting in favor of the appointment and Stark and Hesson opposed. It is believed that the Mayor needs 4 votes because that would be a majority of the 6 member council for the appointment to pass.

Neither the City Attorney nor City Administrator, Chris Ward was sure what happens at this point. City Administrator said in 20 years he's never had this issue.

The Mayor will be allowed to make the appointment again at the next meeting, a Special vote will be held on December 19, at 7:00 p.m. and if it is voted down it is believed that the seat will remain empty.

The City Attorney and City Administrator will be finding out more about that and how that would work.


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