Cedar Rapids government critic ordered to have no contact with employee

But Kuzela will still be allowed to attend city meetings, judge rules

Rick Smith
Published: September 12 2012 | 11:19 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 12:19 am in
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A Linn County judge has granted the request of the Cedar Rapids city manager’s program assistant for a no-contact order against a city government critic accused of assaulting the assistant at City Hall in late June.

At a hearing in August, the defendant, Lisa Kuzela, 49, resisted the request, arguing that a no-contact order would prevent her from attending meetings of the City Council and other city committees and hurt her ability to conduct "investigative work" on city issues.

In her no-contact order, Magistrate Robin O’Brien-Licht said that Kuzela would be allowed "to attend and participate in council meetings and committee meetings at City Hall."

The misdemeanor assault charge stems from a City Hall incident on Tuesday afternoon, June 26, when Kuzela allegedly was causing a "verbal disturbance." In response, Fowler, assistant to the city manager, intervened, picking up a phone to summon police officers for help. Kuzela then "struck her (Fowler) in the face and the phone dropped," the police report states.

City officials have said that Kuzela was at City Hall that day to complain that a flood-recovery benefit she had been receiving for three-and-a-half years had ended. The particular benefit paid mortgage payments on flood-damaged houses as flood victims fixed them up or made their way through the city buyout program. Kuzela continues in the city’s buyout program for her flood-damaged house at 726 Eighth St. NW, and she lives in a replacement house at 341 Carter St. NW, for which she received another flood-recovery benefit called replacement housing assistance.

Some 350 homeowners obtained benefits through the interim mortgage assistance program, though only a small number were left in the program when the City Council announced it was closing it for the final few in early 2012. The city then sent certified letters to those few, and closed the program in April. Kuzela had been among a first group of 26 homeowners who got the first interim mortgage payments on Oct. 17, 2008. In the end, she was the only one left in the program among that first group.

The state of Iowa actually withdrew its support for the interim mortgage assistance program after 18 months, city officials have noted. However, the City Council decided to use revenue from the city’s local-option sales tax to continue to make the interim mortgage payments through April 2012.

Kuzela has been a vocal critic of the City Council, accusing it of wrongdoing and claiming that the city has not used revenue from the local-option sales tax correctly.

In her testimony at the no-contact hearing in August, Kuzela, who was a visible opponent of the local effort to extend the local-option sales tax to help pay for a flood-protection system, said she "founded" the local anti-tax committee and "led the campaign" to defeat the tax measure.

The trial on the misdemeanor assault charge had been slated for Sept. 4, but now has been pushed back to Nov. 5, according to court records. Kuzela’s attorney, Robert Wilson of Cedar Rapids, is asking for a different trial date, the court records state.

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