MUSCATINE — The city of Muscatine and Mayor Diana Broderson now have until Sept. 11 to review the transcripts of closed session meetings and other evidence before a district court judge decides if the city council’s removal of the mayor was constitutional.
The council voted unanimously to remove the mayor from office in May, claiming Broderson willfully violated city code and made false accusations about the city. The mayor appealed the decision in court, and about a month later, a district judge ordered Broderson to be reinstated. The mayor argued the council failed to offer her a fair trial, and she now waits for a judge to determine whether the city violated her right to due process.
During the final hearing in court, Broderson's lawyer asked the city to transcribe the minutes of seven closed session meetings, which could help prove if the council held animus toward the mayor or had personal interest in her removal. The judge ruled the city must provide the minutes, so he can determine if they are relevant to the case.
The city of Muscatine was only able to produce five of the seven closed session tapes, as one was allegedly lost and one had an audio malfunction, according to the court order. On Aug. 11, Judge Mark Cleve ruled the five available tapes are important in determining what role the council played in the removal process. He ordered the transcripts be sent to Broderson and her lawyers immediately.
A few days later, City Administrator Gregg Mandsager filed a motion to intervene, asking the judge to prevent the public from viewing the transcripts of the closed sessions on Feb. 18, 2016 and Oct. 13, 2016. Mandsager claimed he had public interest in the meetings remaining confidential because they concern his performance as a city employee and may damage his reputation, according to court documents.
As of Thursday, Cleve said, the mayor had not been provided with the transcripts of the meetings. Last week, he ruled the city must promptly provide the five closed session transcripts to Broderson and her attorneys. The judge also issued a protective order on the transcripts, prohibiting distribution or release by either party to any other person or the public.
Because the meetings on Feb. 18 and Oct. 13 are included in the protective order, the judge said Mandsager’s request for confidentiality was granted. The judge said under Iowa Code, the city administrator’s “interest is not adequately represented by any of the current parties.”
While the public will not view the closed session transcripts, Muscatine County District Court will use them in issuing a final ruling on Broderson’s appeal. Unless either party submits additional evidence related to the order, the judge said the court will deem the matter fully submitted for a final ruling on the case’s merits on Sept. 11.