MUSCATINE — The Muscatine County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to continue investigating the allegation that Sheriff C.J. Ryan violated the law and disregarded a request for traffic control when a procession for the late veteran Chuck Geertz came through Muscatine County August 24.
During its regular meeting Monday, the supervisors agreed to send official correspondence to Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren asking if a communications log provided by Geertz’s brother, Cyle Geertz, in which Ryan allegedly told deputies to disregard a request for traffic control, is illegal. If it is, the supervisors also ask Ostergren’s advice on how to proceed. During a discussion with Ostergren, Chairman Nathan Mather learned the supervisors’ authority to take action against Ryan is limited. Ostergren was unable to attend the meeting because he had to be at a trial.
“Elected officials are kind of weird in that we have power in our own areas, but we don’t have power over other elected officials,” Mather said. “We can ask the attorney for help, to give us legal advice, but we can’t direct him to start an investigation. We can’t discipline him or the sheriff.”
Chuck Geertz, a veteran’s advocate and 23-year veteran of the United States military, died as a result of a motorcycle crash while returning from a veteran’s event in Colorado. Mather said he has learned state officials are working to present Geertz with honors for his work with veterans. The funeral procession through Iowa included in more than 500 motorcycles, about 100 cars and was more than a mile long.
Cyle Geertz is asking the supervisors to recommend an investigation be done into the incident, saying Ryan violated the law by not assigning traffic control. Geertz and about 30 supporters, many wearing clothing signifying them as veterans, crowded the supervisors’ chamber in support of the recommendation.
You have free articles remaining.
“It's abuse of power by an elected official,” Geertz said. “It’s against the law. We can’t do that. As the mayor, I can’t do that in my town of Nichols. If he gave orders that went against the safety of the people in this county, which is what it was, it's wrong and it needs to be investigated.”
Geertz said if a law is broken, the supervisors can direct the county attorney to investigate the matter. He also said he would return, possibly next week, when he had gathered more information. He said he has Freedom of Information requests in at the sheriff’s office.
Ryan was not at the meeting. In a previous interview with the Muscatine Journal, he said he requested volunteers for the escort to ensure traffic safety, and none of his deputies volunteered. He also said on that day two deputies were on duty to cover 450 square miles. The communications log Geertz presented seemed to show a request for deputies for traffic control was made at 5:09 a.m. and deputies were told to disregard the original post at about 10:45 a.m. Geertz said the badge number of the disregarded communication is Ryan.
Previously Geertz said that during the procession, every county in Iowa had not only provided traffic control, but that law enforcement and first responders had done something to honor his brother.