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Lawyered up: Attorney who represented Janet Solberg when she was fired from job now deciding on freedom of information request


This news story was published on May 11, 2016.
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Janet Solberg, Mason City councilwoman

Janet Solberg, Mason City councilwoman

MASON CITY – In the wake of serious allegations of racism by Mason City councilwoman Janet Solberg against citizens who didn’t agree with her about a slaughterhouse, NIT has requested public records that may only be released once her former personal attorney evaluates the request.

Janet Solberg, after risking her life to smell hog manure across the state of Iowa, had her mind made up on May 3 that a massive Prestage Foods hog slaughterhouse would be a great fit for Mason City.  This “yes” vote to the development came in spite of some phone calls and emails from citizens to her against it.

However, three other council members didn’t like the idea of a kill plant that processes 20,000 hogs a day and Prestage Foods was turned away from Mason City in a tie 3-3 vote.

In the ensuing days, Solberg’s vitriol and perhaps sheer animosity towards citizens who did not agree with her drove her to make stinging comments and allegations about them – statements from an elected public official that some say have given Mason City a black eye.

Unleashing her wrath through the Des Moines Register, she told the state’s largest newspaper that, essentially, “our citizens” were driven by “racism” in opposing the Prestage slaughterhouse.

“Racism was a huge factor. There is no doubt in my mind,” Solberg told the Register. “Most of my phone calls and emails were, ‘we don’t want those people in our community.’ It played a very large factor in all of this, sad to say. I’m so disappointed in our citizens.”

NIT was alerted to these comments from Janet Solberg and has now launched an attempt to spray sunshine onto her allegations of racism and verify her claims.

Monday, NIT emailed a freedom of information request to City Administrator Brent Trout, and copied council members Alex Kuhn, Bill Schickel, Solberg, and Mayor Eric Bookmeyer – just so there were no secrets.  The email request read: “I would like to make a formal freedom of information request.  I’d like to request all email activity related to council person Janet Solberg beginning March 22, 2016 through the present.”

March 21, 2016, was the day the Prestage development was introduced – to much fanfare and applause – at a star-studded press conference at the Park Inn Hotel that included Governor Terry Branstad, business owners, realtors, Chamber of Commerce members and many more “elites” in the community.  It would be logical to deduce that local officials’ inboxes would start filling up after this point.

Attorney Randall Nielsen confers with City Administrator Brent Trout

Attorney Randall Nielsen (left) confers with City Administrator Brent Trout

Tuesday, Mr. Trout responded.  He said he was forwarding the freedom of information request to an attorney – Randy Nielsen – who currently represents the city.  Mr. Trout says Mr. Nielsen would have to “determine costs related to the creating of this email information and possible costs related to the request”.

The potential catch here is that Mr. Nielsen and Janet Solberg are not strangers.  In fact, they go way back and have done business together.  Mr. Nielsen represented Janet Solberg back in 2005 after she was fired from an insurance company in Mason City.

Apparently, Solberg was discharged for misconduct from her job at Mason City All Risk Insurance, public documents show, and yet she demanded unemployment payments. Those documents say that Janet Solberg:

Janet Solberg: Fired as insurance agent but demanded compensation

Janet Solberg: Fired as insurance agent but demanded compensation

“was employed as a full-time agent from January 2002 through December 17, 2004. She was discharged from employment as a result of her failure to follow company procedures. The employer was experiencing a problem with agents authorizing charges for insured’s premiums to be taken from the agency account. This was a practice that could be allowed but only with explicit authorization from the owners or their designee. Several written warnings were issued but the claimant did not feel those warnings applied to her. She continued to act on her own and without authorization or permission, she violated the employer’s policy by allowing numerous charges to be taken from the employer’s account to cover insured’s premiums. The employer met with her on December 17, 2004 to try to address the ongoing problem but the claimant walked out of the meeting.”

In the end, Solberg and her attorney, Randall Nielsen, failed to convince a judge she deserved unemployment payments.

“The claimant is not eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits because she was discharged from work for misconduct,” public documents show.

Now, NIT waits on Mr. Nielsen’s perusal of a standard public records request involving his former client.  The hope here is that these emails will shed light onto her claims of racism – either back them up or prove them to be somewhat unfounded.

NIT will report back with new developments as soon as possible.

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24 Responses to Lawyered up: Attorney who represented Janet Solberg when she was fired from job now deciding on freedom of information request

  1. Scott niver Reply Report comment

    June 1, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    If you can’t leave your name on your comments then why bother?

  2. Reality Check Reply Report comment

    May 13, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Much ado about nothing. What’s the point, let’s all move on.

  3. anonymous Reply Report comment

    May 12, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    Please. She had no intent of hiring LOCALS! So how was that helping us? Wasn’t. Just more of a bunch of nothing for our town. Trouble and bad environment. You must not hear the way she talks to we the people.

  4. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    May 12, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    we need jobs!!! we already have riffraff and real people that want real jobs with real benefits to support their family.so when there is a sewer leak in MC,dont think its best shut the town down because” we dont need that riffraff either!!! give me a break! leave janet alone, she is the most kind and supportive person i;ve known!!!!

  5. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    May 12, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    stop this BS! govt. has their heads up ther…!!!

  6. anonymous Reply Report comment

    May 11, 2016 at 11:11 am

    AWESOME!!! Janet you are forgetting the 3 top reasons: Schickel,Kuhn, Lee. All of the citizens concerns were nothing then or as you bad mouth still. YOUR colleagues voted NOT the people! Rear your head in that direction.

  7. the real fred Reply Report comment

    May 11, 2016 at 10:38 am

    It’s the go-to move for libs. If you don’t agree with me, then you’re a racist!

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      May 11, 2016 at 10:50 am

      … or at least a bigot. which is a hilarious contradiction because being bigoted simply means intolerant towards those with a different opinion.

  8. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    May 11, 2016 at 10:14 am

    She should be question on conduct, badmouthing her constituants. I guess I’m racist since I did not want higher taxes, higher crime rates, school system strain and stress, heightened local welfare use, not to mention the environmental impact. Not to mention she cant even perform her city council duties, she just copies off Hickey.

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      May 11, 2016 at 6:09 pm

      Is this the summer of petitions? Where do I sign a petition demanding the resignation of all finger pointing,”I’m not a racist, but you are”, Human Rights Department defunding, elected officials?

  9. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    May 11, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Janet, please do our city a favor and resign immediately!

    • just the facts Reply Report comment

      May 11, 2016 at 9:45 am

      Fat chance of that. An empty cranium has no shame !!

  10. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    May 11, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Isn’t she currently awaiting a trial on human rights violations or did the city settle that out of court?

  11. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    May 11, 2016 at 7:48 am

    Are you a racist if you do not want terrorists bused into your town or is that politically incorrect ? TRUMP 2016

  12. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    May 11, 2016 at 7:18 am

    Can I just say that NIT is the most interesting paper I think I’ve read in a long time? The writing is interesting and engaging and just a bit amusing. More intelligent than I would have expected from a small town paper. (Sorry small town papers 🙂

  13. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    May 11, 2016 at 5:42 am

    Concerns about the environment, humane treatment of animals, cost factors, crime, is not racism.

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      May 11, 2016 at 7:10 am

      But,not wanting minority people in the town is. Racist.

      • Anonymous Reply Report comment

        May 11, 2016 at 8:26 am

        since you clearly have no idea of the meaning of the word racist, please allow me to educate you:

        http://www.britannica.com/topic/racism

        “humans are divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called “races,” that there is a causal link between inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural behavioral features, and that some races are innately superior to others.”

        • Anonymous Reply Report comment

          May 11, 2016 at 9:01 am

          Bull Shit!

          • Anonymous

            May 11, 2016 at 9:15 am

            thank you for acknowledging that you’ve now learned the true meaning of this word as defined by encyclopaedia britannica. your eloquent reply made my day!

      • Anonymous Reply Report comment

        May 11, 2016 at 8:38 am

        so, with the definition on the table, please explain how it makes someone a ‘racist’ for not wanting thousands of working poor coming to the community, working poor who are unable to get a job anywhere but in a packing plant, because they lack skills and often do not even speak english!

        one more thing. before i go on i want to warn you. what i’m about to write will be so incredibly offensive to a person like you, that you should sit down before you read it, because you may experience seizures. ok, ready? here goes:

        the opinion that one should not be in america illegally or work here without proper authorization does not meet the clinical definition of ‘racist’ either.

      • Anonymous Reply Report comment

        May 11, 2016 at 8:57 am

        i cant really blame dr prestage for the comments he made. he was understandably disappointed and probably not so little frustrated after hours upon hours of more or less informed citizens opposing him and his company, some of us making just as uncalled for accusations towards him.

        oh the other hand, that a councilperson is officially badmouthing her own constituents in state wide press is a different matter entirely. the fact that she is lying is the smaller issue. the betrayal of your own is whats the worst. i used to think she should be allowed to serve until the end her term, but no more. she needs to resign NOW.