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Judge hears arguments in Scott County supervisor's appeal of vacancy panel ruling
MAXWELL CASE

Judge hears arguments in Scott County supervisor's appeal of vacancy panel ruling

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A Scott County District Court Judge heard arguments Friday in an appeal of a decision last week by a panel of Scott County officials declaring a vacancy in office of county supervisor held by Republican John Maxwell.

District Court Judge Patrick McElyea said he intended to issue a ruling quickly.

The question arose out of Maxwell's dual roles on the Davenport City Conference Board as both a supervisor and North Scott School Board member.

Maxwell's attorney, Alan Ostergren, pointed to Iowa attorney general opinions he argued indicate nothing about the two offices are incompatible, and the Iowa Secretary of State's Office publishes a guide for candidates that states that such dual service is permitted.

Ostergren also argued a 2017 change to Iowa law allows other members of city conference boards to simultaneously hold office. The change combined city and school elections into a single general election in odd-numbered years and allowed a candidate to run for both city office and school board on the same ballot.

Additionally, Ostergren argued any potential conflict Maxwell might have serving as both a county supervisor and North Scott school board member on the Davenport City Conference Board, which appoints and oversees the city assessor's office, was resolved when Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a sweeping and controversial elections law bill earlier this month.

In the bill sponsored by Davenport Republican state Sen. Roby Smith is a provision that allows for a waiver of one of the positions on the conference board, thereby resolving the potential conflict, Ostergren said.

Attorney Jim Larew, representing Scott County residents who petitioned for the March 15 vacancy hearing before the panel, argued the newly enacted state law is not retroactive and Maxwell vacated his office when he assumed his newly elected position to the North Scott school board in November 2019. Larew also argued differing Iowa attorney general opinions over the years do not sufficiently and specifically address the issue, are only advisory and do not carry the weight of law.

Instead, Larew cited a 1965 Iowa Supreme Court ruling referenced by Scott County Attorney Michael Walton in a memo to county officials last month.

In the memo, Walton stated that Maxwell serving dual roles on the Davenport board conflicted with Iowa administrative code. And, according to the Supreme Court ruling, "if a person, while occupying one office, accepts another incompatible with the first, he ipso facto vacates the first office."

"A single person holding two offices cannot complete all of the functions of both offices," Larew said. "They overlap in some way. And the most poignant example and why it came up here" was in February during a meeting of the conference board Maxwell switched from his role as supervisor to school board member in order to establish a needed quorum of the conference board to reappoint the city assessor to a new term.

The Scott County Attorney's Office, however, has subsequently said the recent change to state law resolved the issue.

Maxwell has posted a $44,370 bond with the court, equal to his yearly compensation as supervisor, and will continue to serve on the Scott County Board of Supervisors pending resolution of his appeal.

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