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Mason City has turned its back on protecting Human Rights of its citizens

MASON CITY – January is Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month – and the glaring reality here in town is that the City of Mason City has essentially turned its back on upholding Human Rights.

Through its deeds, actions and defunding, the City of Mason City no longer pursues the preservation of Human Rights as it once did over the course of decades, but merely appears to be going through the motions until the entire enterprise can be quietly swept under the rug.

Case in point, the total dismantling of the Human Rights Department and the near obliteration of the Human Rights Commission – institutions that served the down-trodden in Mason City since the 1960’s. Citizens with interest and passion in making sure the powerless were not victimized by members of the infamous “Good Old Boys Club” here in town were appointed to the Human Rights Commission by elected leaders under the stewardship of Lionel Foster. The Commission met regularly to investigate incidents in which landlords, business owners, elected officials and others took advantage of citizens who didn’t have means to protect themselves. Many, many cases were investigated and resolved – and the Good Old Boys were kept on a leash.  The City pursued large federal grants and chipped in some dollars to keep the operation in motion.

Lionel Foster:
Under attack for decades,
was finally ousted and Human Rights
in Mason City no longer protected.

But after years of hard work, the Human Rights “agency” in Mason City made enemies with powerful, nasty, vindictive personalities.  These folks over many years fought back through plotting, planning and attacks.  The Good Old Boys finally got their people into office in 2009 who would begin to take down this institution and make sure it never interfered with their fun and games ever again.

A plan was hatched back in 2009 to fire Lionel Foster, install into the Human Rights Commission folks who – let’s put this delicately – may not have been Champions of Human Rights and saw things the way their mayor and council did (who were and remain stooges of the Good Old Boys), and then to nearly totally de-fund what was left and send all cases to the state of Iowa to be handled there.  Mason City would go out of the business of protecting the Human Rights of citizens.

Human Rights offices permanently
closed in Mason City.

The outcome of this blitzkrieg on Human Rights in Mason City has been a smashing success for the Good Old Boys Club. The Human Rights Department as it once was is pretty much totally gone. No more employees and very little funding. Citizens are not even really informed of their rights or options if they are victimized.  As one human rights advocate tells it, citizens “are left flapping in the breeze as offenders and wrongdoers gleefully prance to the next victim without a worry in the world.”  The Human Rights Commission – once stocked with many folks who cared about the welfare of their fellow citizens and who relentlessly took offenders to task – is almost caput. It is now down to a board of only 5 members, and there are only 3 persons placed on the board at this time. The Commission used to meet at least once a month.  That was officially pared down to four times a year and by 2016, the Commission met twice. In 2017, it met once. The City displays no meeting minutes for these latest meetings on its website.

Bookmeyer and others led the charge to
eradicate Human Rights in Mason City.
Will that trend continue?

Who is to blame?

1) Mostly former elected leaders like Eric Bookmeyer, Jean Marinos, Travis Hickey, Janet Solberg, and Scott Tornquist, who plotted to destroy the Human Rights Department and Commission at the behest of those who put them in office.

2) Meanwhile, other current elected leaders have been complacent or signed off on this chain of events through budget approvals that nearly took away all City dollars toward the cause (which, in turn chased away federal grants), notably John Lee who has served the longest on the current city council and Bill Schickel, now mayor.

This first group began in 2009 with a plan to fire former Human Rights Department head Lionel Foster, instill into the Commission persons who may not have been Human Rights champions, and then dramatically reduce funding to the department and the Commission. They accomplished this, then got sued by Mr. Foster and settled for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The next group remains complicit by continuing to de-fund what is left of the department and Commission, by leaving the Commission only 60% filled with volunteers, and by not even forcing what is left of the Commission to meet regularly or to maintain meeting minutes on the rare occasions they do meet.  According to the City’s website, meetings are typically scheduled the first Thursday of January.  No meeting ever took place this month, to the public’s knowledge, as no meeting agenda was ever posted.

Does Mayor Bill Schickel –
who takes a paycheck from
a non-profit Christian radio station –
care about Human Rights
or just fancy new hotels?

January is Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month.  Even President Donald Trump and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds – Republicans – made the proclamation to mark this important event.  However, in January, the City of Mason City did not recognize Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month.  Mayor Bill Schickel made no mention of Human Rights in his opening speech this month when he took office.  The Human Rights Commission never met nor made a proclamation.  NIT asked the City’s current crop of elected persons a few questions about the current status and future plans for protecting Human Rights of citizens in Mason City.  If any of these persons cares to submit an answer, NIT will report.


EMAIL from NIT Publisher Matt Marquardt to Mayor Bill Schickel and the City Council:

from: Matt Marquardt <>
to: Council Member Bill Schickel <>,
Council Member Paul Adams <>,,
“Kevin E. Jacobson” <>,
Council Member John Lee <>,,,

date: Tue, Jan 23, 2018 at 12:14 PM


January is Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month.

Did the City in any way mark this event?

Why are there only 3 members of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) when there should be 5? Does the mayor and council plan to fill this board with volunteers anytime in the near future? Has anyone placed applications to be a board member?

Why did the HRC meet only TWICE in 2016 and ONCE in 2017? (See City website showing detail for only these three meetings.) Why are no meeting minutes for these meetings posted to the City’s website?

Do you foresee the City, as part of the so-called “new beginning” proclaimed by Mayor Bill Schickel, placing some emphasis in any way toward making the Mason City Human Rights Commission a real, functioning board and department, or will this body continue to essentially, do nothing but defer to the state?

City records show the City has spent declining amounts on the Human Rights Commission (department?) since 2010 – peaking in 2012 at about $159,800. In 2017, the City spent only about $3,900. Is it the City’s ultimate goal to spend $0 on Human Rights and dis-band the Commission altogether?

Why does Mason City place such a low priority on our Human Rights Commission?

City of Mason City budget for Human Rights, since 2010:

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