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Iowa Civil Rights Director to Lionel Foster: “It appears you question my motives in this process”

The long-time office of the Mason City Human Rights agency.  Personnel from the Blue Zones project are slowly moving into the office as funding for Human Rights was dramatically slashed by Alex Kuhn, Jean Marinos, Scott Tornquist, Travis Hickey, John Lee and Janet Solberg.
The long-time office of the Mason City Human Rights agency. Personnel from the Blue Zones project are slowly moving into the office as funding for Human Rights was dramatically slashed by Alex Kuhn, Jean Marinos, Scott Tornquist, Travis Hickey, John Lee and Janet Solberg.

MASON CITY – As the Mason City Human Rights Commission (MCRC) considers an agreement with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) for sending Human Rights cases to Des Moines, NorthIowaToday.com continues to give the public all information possible so that the people of Mason city are aware of the process.

NIT was informed last week that Mayor Eric Bookmeyer has indeed directed attorneys paid with city funds to contact the ICRC as the MCRC considers the agreement presented by Iowa Civil Rights Director Beth Townsend. NIT is told the agreement is solely between the two agencies and does not involve the mayor nor city council. Mayor Bookmeyer answered questions sent by NIT Publisher Matt Marquardt regarding why city attorneys were now involved in the matter.  Read the story from Friday, April 12th, here.

Funding for the Mason City Human Rights Department will essentially run out on June 30th and Director Lionel Foster has indicated that he has no intention of resigning. NIT is told that personnel working on the Blue Zones project are set to take over the Human Rights office at City Hall.

Below is the latest correspondence between the parties in Des Moines and Mason City regarding the agreement between the MCHRC and the ICRC.

——-

Townsend, Beth [ICRC]

9:38 AM (10 minutes ago)

to Lionel, Eric, me, Don, Alex, cameron, figfinesse, kbmac17, celt717, Jacque.Huesman, vanzomej, Karen.Ries, riesweaver, spalm100, MDODGE, Brent, nielsen, scott, Amanda, sharon.steckman, Cameron, Kathy, Kathye, Sandy

Lionel,

I am disappointed in the turn this conversation has taken. I have always respected you and the work you have done there and believed we had a good working relationship. It appears you question my motives in this process. If I have said or done something to make you do so, I apologize as that has never been my intent. Further, it has never been my intent to “politicize” any of this and frankly am unclear how I could even do that given the fact I have absolutely no stake in this process other than to provide information and assistance to the extent the MCHRC desires it. I have not undertaken a review of the MCHRC ordinances with an eye to the responsible party to sign the workshare agreement at issue. As I have repeatedly and publicly stated, this is a local decision and my only interest in the decisions made by the MCHRC has been to provide information and answer questions so that the MCHRC and city officials can make the best decision possible for the citizens of Mason City.

I very much hope we can refocus the conversation on what should be everyone’s priority . . . serving the citizens of Mason City. I know that is my focus, and I hope it will be yours as well and that we can work together in that endeavor. As I told the Commission last week, I want to establish a good working relationship with the MCHRC that will continue not just in the next few months as they attempt to resolve the outstanding issues facing the commission, but for well into the future as well. I remain hopeful that you have the same goal as well and that we can work together for the benefit of all parties involved.

Beth A. Townsend
Director, Iowa Civil Rights Commission
400 East 14th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
(515)242-6537 (Direct Line)

———–

—–Original Message—–
From: Lionel Foster Sr. [mailto:lfoster@masoncity.net]
Sent: Monday, April 15, 2013 9:06 AM
To: Townsend, Beth [ICRC]; Eric Bookmeyer; northiowatoday@gmail.com
Cc: Grove, Don [ICRC]; Alex Kuhn; cameron@sarjeantssystems.com; figfinesse@me.com; kbmac17@hotmail.com; celt717@hotmail.com; Jacque.Huesman@Armour-Eckrich.com; vanzomej@yahoo.com; Karen.Ries@doorgroup.com; riesweaver@mchsi.com; spalm100@hotmail.com; MDODGE@amfam.com; Brent Trout; nielsen@pappajohnlaw.com; scott@tornquistforrivercity.com; Ragan, Amanda [LEGIS]; sharon.steckman@legis.state.ia.us; League of Iowa Human & Civil Rights Agencies Inc.; Cameron Sarjeant; Kathy Loeckie; Kathye Gaines; Sandy Servantez
Subject: RE: Mayor’s involvement with Iowa Civil Rights Commission contract with Mason City Human Right Commission

Beth,

It’s unfortunate that you continue to politicize this matter. The Commission has the agreement, and will discuss it in May. But just so I’m clear, Amy sent you a copy of the MCHRC ordinance 2/3 months ago, so you know full well what it says . And as you know the Commission enforces Iowa Code Chapter 216 the same as ICRC. You also know that there is absolutely no requirement in Chapter 216.19 which requires you to have Governor Branstad, or the Iowa Legislator, sign-off on your referral/deferral agreement with locals. So would that not the same for
MCHRC?

———–

—–Original Message—–
From: Townsend, Beth [ICRC] [mailto:Beth.Townsend@iowa.gov]
Sent: Monday, April 15, 2013 8:20 AM
To: Lionel Foster Sr.; Eric Bookmeyer; northiowatoday@gmail.com
Cc: Grove, Don [ICRC]; Alex Kuhn; cameron@sarjeantssystems.com; figfinesse@me.com; kbmac17@hotmail.com; celt717@hotmail.com; Jacque.Huesman@Armour-Eckrich.com; vanzomej@yahoo.com; Karen.Ries@doorgroup.com; riesweaver@mchsi.com; spalm100@hotmail.com; MDODGE@amfam.com; Brent Trout; nielsen@pappajohnlaw.com; scott@tornquistforrivercity.com
Subject: RE: Mayor’s involvement with Iowa Civil Rights Commission contract with Mason City Human Right Commission

Lionel,

Just so we are clear, I am not imposing a requirement that the mayor or city council member sign this agreement. Some city ordinances require it and historically those communities have had city government officials sign their work share agreements. I will leave it to you and city officials to determine who can sign the agreement. You are correct the ICRA does not require anything beyond what relevant city ordinances require.

Any other questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Beth A. Townsend
Director, Iowa Civil Rights Commission
400 East 14th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
(515)242-6537 (Direct Line)

———–

—–Original Message—–
From: Lionel Foster Sr. [mailto:lfoster@masoncity.net]
Sent: Friday, April 12, 2013 4:26 PM
To: Eric Bookmeyer; Townsend, Beth [ICRC]; northiowatoday@gmail.com
Cc: Grove, Don [ICRC]; Alex Kuhn; cameron@sarjeantssystems.com; figfinesse@me.com; kbmac17@hotmail.com; celt717@hotmail.com; Jacque.Huesman@Armour-Eckrich.com; vanzomej@yahoo.com; Karen.Ries@doorgroup.com; riesweaver@mchsi.com; spalm100@hotmail.com; MDODGE@amfam.com; Brent Trout; nielsen@pappajohnlaw.com; scott@tornquistforrivercity.com
Subject: RE: Mayor’s involvement with Iowa Civil Rights Commission contract with Mason City Human Right Commission

Mayor,

Thank you for coping me on this important subject. So that everyone’s has all of the history on ICRC work sharing agreements, the Mason City Commission has had such agreements with the ICRC for at least a decade, and until Beth arrived, there has never been a requirement for past Mayors or City Councils to lend their permission. In fact, the Commission has all the authority it needs under Chapter 216.19 to execute the agreement on its own behalf.

———–

—–Original Message—–
From: Eric Bookmeyer
Sent: Friday, April 12, 2013 1:02 PM
To: Townsend, Beth [ICRC]; northiowatoday@gmail.com
Cc: Lionel Foster Sr.; Grove, Don [ICRC]; Alex Kuhn; cameron@sarjeantssystems.com; figfinesse@me.com; kbmac17@hotmail.com; celt717@hotmail.com; Jacque.Huesman@Armour-Eckrich.com;
vanzomej@yahoo.com; Karen.Ries@doorgroup.com; riesweaver@mchsi.com; spalm100@hotmail.com; MDODGE@amfam.com; Brent Trout; nielsen@pappajohnlaw.com; scott@tornquistforrivercity.com
Subject: RE: Mayor’s involvement with Iowa Civil Rights Commission contract with Mason City Human Right Commission

Matt,

I concur with Director Townsend.

To answer your questions more specifically from my perspective:

It has come to my attention that Mayor Bookmeyer has entered into the negotiating process with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission’s negotiations with the Mason City Human Rights Commission and the possible agreement that might be signed between the two agencies. – I have not and have no intention to enter into any negotiating process regarding the agreement.

I am told Mr. Bookmeyer has used Mason City attorneys in this process and will insist that the Mason City Council and himself approve the agreement. – After attending the April 3rd MCHRC meeting it became apparent that the work-share agreement being offered to the MCHRC had a signatory line for the mayor. As a courtesy to the MCHRC, I referred the work-share agreement to the city attorney for him to consider the agreement for recommendation to council and determine whether it needed council and mayoral approval. He has now signed off on the agreement and confirmed that it is a 28E agreement that would need council approval before mayoral signature, via Section 28E.4, pending MCHRC approval.

I am further told that the Mason City HR Commission is being left out of the process entirely. – MCHRC was emailed the city attorney communications and the slightly amended agreement that the city attorney was willing to sign off on. That was done precisely so that MCHRC would have a work-share agreement in hand to consider at their May meeting that they had confidence that the city council would be counseled to approve by our city attorney.

Eric

———–

—–Original Message—–
From: Townsend, Beth [ICRC] [mailto:Beth.Townsend@iowa.gov]
Sent: Fri 4/12/2013 11:10 AM
To: northiowatoday@gmail.com
Cc: Lionel Foster Sr.; Grove, Don [ICRC]; Eric Bookmeyer; Alex Kuhn
Subject: FW: Mayor’s involvement with Iowa Civil Rights Commission contract with Mason City Human Right Commission

Matt,

There have been no “negotiations” between the ICRC and the Mason City Human Rights Commission, or the City of Mason City and its officials. I have offered the MCHRC the opportunity to enter into a workshare agreement that they can chose to sign or not, depending on how the Commission decides to handle their remaining cases. The Mason City city attorney contacted me this week with a couple of questions regarding the workshare agreement and asked that two minor changes be made to the agreement for clarification purposes, which I agreed to. However, neither of the two changes, changed the terms of the agreement in any way and the terms offered in the original agreement remained exactly the same. Indeed, the city attorney did not inquire about “negotiating” any of the terms of the agreement and did not ask for any changes other than two grammatical changes.

Just for clarification, there is nothing within the ICRA that would prevent the local agency and/or city government from “negotiating” the terms of a workshare agreement with the ICRC. As a general rule, no negotiations are conducted because of the need to provide uniformity throughout the state for all local agencies that chose to enter into the workshare agreements with the ICRC, but I do take suggestions from
agencies regarding the structure of the agreements. To date, MCHRC has
not entered into a workshare agreement this year, however with the vote to reduce the funding for the commission, I offered the MCHRC the opportunity to enter into an agreement for the remainder of this fiscal year in an effort to assist them through their unique circumstances.
The workshare agreement does not require the agency to refer cases to the ICRC, it simply establishes the terms under which the local commission will be reimbursed by the ICRC should they elect to do so.

With regard to what parties will need to sign the agreement, I have advised both the City Attorney and the acting chair of the MSCHR, that this will depend on the Mason City ordinances. There is nothing within the ICRA which requires the signature of any particular body. Rather the agreement must be signed by the appropriate authority depending on the governing city ordinance establishing the human rights commission.
Some city ordinances within the state require City Council/Mayoral approval, others do not. I am not an expert in Mason City ordinances and have no opinion regarding the appropriate authority to sign the agreement. I would refer you to the Mason City city attorney for any questions regarding this issue.

I do not have a position on whether the MCHRC should enter into the agreement (although I can see no reason why they wouldn’t) or any of the issues currently facing the Commission and City of Mason City. I am here to answer questions posed by the citizens of Mason City, MCHRC commission members and members of city government, as I would for any other local community in the state of Iowa with similar issues or questions and to provide an option to the MCHRC for processing their remaining complaints. Should you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact me as I know there is a lot of misinformation floating around and I would rather provide the correct answers to questions individuals may have.

Beth A. Townsend
Director, Iowa Civil Rights Commission
400 East 14th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
(515)242-6537 (Direct Line)

———–

From: Matt Marquardt [mailto:northiowatoday@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, April 12, 2013 10:27 AM
To: mayor@masoncity.net<mailto:mayor@masoncity.net>;
kuhnatlarge@masoncity.net<mailto:kuhnatlarge@masoncity.net>; Brent Trout; tornquistatlarge@masoncity.net<mailto:tornquistatlarge@masoncity.net>;
Lionel Foster Sr.; Grove, Don [ICRC]; Sisler, Diana [ICRC]
Subject: Mayor’s involvement with Iowa Civil Rights Commission contract with Mason City Human Right Commission

Good morning,

It has come to my attention that Mayor Bookmeyer has entered into the negotiating process with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission’s negotiations with the Mason City Human Rights Commission and the possible agreement that might be signed between the two agencies.

I am told Mr. Bookmeyer has used Mason City attorneys in this process and will insist that the Mason City Council and himself approve the agreement. I am further told that the Mason City HR Commission is being left out of the process entirely.
I am further informed that this negotiation violates the Iowa civil Rights Statute.

I am at this time working on this story and would like to confirm this situation or have it straightened out so only the truth is reported.

Please respond with what you know of this.

Matt Marquardt, NIT Publisher

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