MUSCATINE — A lawyer for the Muscatine City Council says transcripts of closed sessions should not be included as evidence in Mayor Diana Broderson's appeal because they fall under attorney-client privilege.
A Muscatine County District Court judge will decide next month whether to include the transcripts of seven closed sessions as evidence before deciding if Broderson's removal was constitutional.
Broderson's lawyer, William Sueppel, requested the transcripts be released to Judge Mark Cleve for his review. The judge said the city has until Aug. 1 to hire a court reporter and submit the transcripts.
The city's lawyer, Amy Reanser, filed a resistance to the request on Thursday.
Reasner argued the closed sessions, which total about 10 hours, were held to discuss matters in litigation "or where litigation is imminent." She said City Attorney Matt Brick was present at the sessions, offering the council legal advice, often trying to "avoid" litigation.
"Even if the District Court were to determine that the recording was relevant to plaintiff's (Broderson's) case, the contents of the closed session should be protected by attorney-client privilege," she wrote.
Broderson was excluded from four of the seven sessions, Reasner said, all of which were held after July 1, 2016.
Iowa law states a governmental body can exclude a member from attending a closed session if the "member's attendance at the closed session creates conflict of interest for the member due to the specific reason announced as justification for holding the closed session."
Because litigation between Broderson and the city was imminent, Reasner said, the mayor's presence would have been a conflict of interest.
Broderson was present at the first three closed sessions, in which the council claims it coached the mayor on the scope of her authority and duties of office. The mayor testified that during the first closed session, City Administrator Gregg Mandsager said he "couldn't work with" her.
Reasner argued there is no reason to breach attorney-client privilege because Broderson testified during the removal hearings she was coached on her duties as mayor in closed session, and the city attorney also outlined some details about the coaching.
Sueppel argued the city council's reasoning for holding the closed sessions was not completely truthful, as Mandsager also was considering a lawsuit against the mayor for defamation.
The judge will review the transcripts of the closed sessions before deciding whether they are relevant. He could decide to submit none, all, or a portion of the transcripts as evidence.
After viewing the transcripts on Aug. 1, the judge has said he will issue a written ruling on the case.
If the closed session transcripts are released, they could shed light on how the council coached Broderson about her duties, how the council chose to pursue the mayor's removal and potentially help the judge decide if the council's actions were constitutional.
While the city finds a court reporter with at least 10 hours available to transcribe audio of the closed sessions, both attorneys have more time to submit additional evidence.