Opinion by Peter Children of Mason City –
Ever since Eric Bookmeyer took office here there has been never ending drama and a series of litigation and complaints brought against this city… the majority of which this city has come up short and some of it brushed under the rug. They don’t want you to know about these deeds; each is too embarrassing for the mayor.
The purpose of this editorial is two fold; the first is to congratulate Lionel Foster on his very successful win against this city. He and his agency had been a target since the first day Bookmeyer took office. Mr. Foster was forced to stand witness to the systematic dismantling of the department he spent nearly 40 years building.
The Human Rights Department, under the direction of Mr. Foster was the envy of all other like agencies across the state. What remains of it is mostly a joke and is ruled by the Chamber of Commerce and their cronies.
Mr. Foster is not a Johnny come lately in this community; he has earned his mettle. He was one of the original organizers of our community food bank along with then-mayor Ken Kew. He has been feted at banquets where he was honored with declarations of excellence. This was a common occurrence. He served as “chair” of the child advocacy board for the state of Iowa and he also served on the drug court. In these capacities Mr. Foster served under two different Governors – Vilsack and Branstad. And he has been inducted into the African American Hall of Fame.
Now let’s take a quick glimpse of Eric Bookmeyer. I say that because there is simply one dimension to this man – little else to look at. At the onset of Bookmeyer’s first term, after he was sworn into office in 2010, immediately there were complaints filed against him by at least two City Hall employees. These were hostile workplace notices filed by then city attorney Tom Meyer and financial director Kevin Jacobson. It was also well-known that morale at city hall plunged to record lows as Bookmeyer began a systematic cleansing of long-standing experienced board members. These knowledgable individuals were replaced by his puppets who pandered to his every wish.
Let’s pause here for a moment and put this into a more understandable perspective.
Mason City is a “small rural farming community” where you can drive across the town in any direction in 7 or 8 minutes or less. We have a weak mayoral form of government where the office of the mayor is largely ceremonial and the real day-to-day running of the city rests on the shoulders of the city administrator, Brent Trout. But Bookmeyer bullied his way into areas where he didn’t belong…..and no one stopped him, least of all was the city council, who’s job it is to enforce such matters. By refusing to do their job fully, they themselves became just as culpable as the misfit from Clinton by way of Rochester and Decorah and Nebraska who has sullied this city like no other mayor in it’s history. Without doubt there had to be more than one incidence of malfeasance taking place at any given time.
Brent Trout totally capitulated to Bookmeyer. Instead of reminding Bookmeyer where the real lines were drawn in this city and what and where the mayor’s authority began and ended…..Trout gave him as much rope as he wanted, and he wanted so much they had to send out for more.
I operated three establishments in this city that were licensed to sell liquor, as a result I have a great deal of knowledge in that area and I can unassailably state that Eric Bookmeyer has serious issues with alcohol which can have profound effects on sound judgement. Evidence of that can be seen in the most deserved judgement awarded to Lionel Foster as a result of his suit against this city. Let it be known that the chief engineer that lit the match in that action was Bookmeyer and the flames were fanned by a more than willing council and city administrator. The city has insurance in place to cover these incidences; I believe our deductible is $75,000.00 – that’s $75K we do not have. This means we pay the first $75K and the insurance picks up the rest. You think that’s OK? You think $75K is chump change? Do you know there were settlements made prior to this one? I personally know that there is a real blockbuster lawsuit sitting in the wings that will be in court sometime in the coming new year. It will cost this city an arm and a leg….and it will never see the inside of a courtroom. Like the Foster suit it will be settled in the offices of some lawyer; the insurance representative will be present to either agree or reject the demand of the plaintiff. If the city fails to meet the demands….then the courtroom looms ahead….and that just is not in the cards. Bookmeyer cannot afford to enter a courtroom and neither can the council; the embarrassment would be too much for him to bear. If that were to happen the verdict would be unimaginable.
Bookmeyer is out of control and as a result of blind ignorance the council has handed him a blank check. What is really taking place here is a dark comedy…..a charade that is being played out right in front of you. The lawsuits are not going to stop until Bookmeyer and this council are gone….so WHEN IS ENOUGH, ENOUGH?
Whether you believe it or not, you can impeach a mayor. Look it up – alcoholism is listed as one of the reasons – so if any city meets that requirement, this one does.